Lipid droplets (LDs) are neutral lipid storage organelles that provide a rapidly accessible source of fatty acids (FAs) for energy during periods of nutrient deprivation. Surprisingly, lipids released by the macroautophagic/autophagic breakdown of membranous organelles are packaged and stored in new LDs during periods of prolonged starvation. Why cells would store FAs during an energy crisis was unknown. In our recent study, we demonstrated that FAs released during MTORC1-regulated autophagy are selectively channeled by DGAT1 (diacylglycerol O-acyltransferase 1) into triacylglycerol (TAG)-rich LDs. These DGAT1-dependent LDs sequester FAs and prevent the accumulation of acylcarnitines, which otherwise directly disrupt mitochondrial integrity. Our findings establish LD biogenesis as a general cellular response to periods of high autophagic flux that provide a lipid buffering system to mitigate lipotoxic cellular damage.
Keywords: DGAT1; MTORC1; acylcarnitine; autophagy; lipid droplets; lipotoxicity; mitochondria.