The Atg1 complex, comprising Atg1, Atg13, Atg17, Atg29, and Atg31, is a key initiator of autophagy. The Atg17-Atg31-Atg29 subcomplex is constitutively present at the phagophore assembly site (PAS), while Atg1 and Atg13 join the complex when autophagy is triggered by starvation or other signals. We sought to understand the energetics and dynamics of assembly using isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), sedimentation velocity analytical ultracentrifugation, and hydrogen-deuterium exchange (HDX). We showed that the membrane and Atg13-binding domain of Atg1, Atg1EAT, is dynamic on its own, but is rigidified in its high-affinity (∼100 nM) complex with Atg13. Atg1EAT and Atg13 form a 2:2 dimeric assembly and together associate with lower affinity (∼10 μM) with the 2:2:2 Atg17-Atg31-Atg29 complex. These results lead to an overall model for the assembly pathway of the Atg1 complex. The model highlights the Atg13-Atg17 binding event as the weakest link in the assembly process and thus as a natural regulatory checkpoint.
Keywords: Atg13; Atg17; EAT domain; analytical ultracentrifugation; hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry.