Interplay between Autophagy and the Ubiquitin-Proteasome System and Its Role in the Pathogenesis of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Jan 8;20(1):210. doi: 10.3390/ijms20010210.


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a complex eye disease with many pathogenesis factors, including defective cellular waste management in retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Main cellular waste in AMD are: all-trans retinal, drusen and lipofuscin, containing unfolded, damaged and unneeded proteins, which are degraded and recycled in RPE cells by two main machineries-the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) and autophagy. Recent findings show that these systems can act together with a significant role of the EI24 (etoposide-induced protein 2.4 homolog) ubiquitin ligase in their action. On the other hand, E3 ligases are essential in both systems, but E3 is degraded by autophagy. The interplay between UPS and autophagy was targeted in several diseases, including Alzheimer disease. Therefore, cellular waste clearing in AMD should be considered in the context of such interplay rather than either of these systems singly. Aging and oxidative stress, two major AMD risk factors, reduce both UPS and autophagy. In conclusion, molecular mechanisms of UPS and autophagy can be considered as a target in AMD prevention and therapeutic perspective. Further work is needed to identify molecules and effects important for the coordination of action of these two cellular waste management systems.

Keywords: age-related macular degeneration; autophagy; cellular waste elimination; mitophagy; proteostasis; ubiquitin-proteasome system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autophagy*
  • Humans
  • Macular Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Macular Degeneration / pathology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism*
  • Retina / pathology
  • Retina / physiopathology
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism*


  • Ubiquitin
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex