The immediate responses to inhibition of phosphatidylcholine (PC) biosynthesis in yeast are altered phospholipid levels, slow growth, and defects in the morphology and localization of ER and mitochondria. With chronic lipid imbalance, yeast adapt. Lipid droplet (LD) biogenesis and conversion of phospholipids to triacylglycerol are required for restoring some phospholipids to near-wild-type levels. We confirmed that the unfolded protein response is activated by this lipid stress and find that Hsp104p is recruited to ER aggregates. We also find that LDs form at ER aggregates, contain polyubiquitinated proteins and an ER chaperone, and are degraded in the vacuole by a process resembling microautophagy. This process, microlipophagy, is required for restoration of organelle morphology and cell growth during adaptation to lipid stress. Microlipophagy does not require ATG7 but does requires ESCRT components and a newly identified class E VPS protein that localizes to ER and is upregulated by lipid imbalance.
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