Disturbances in autophagy and stress granule dynamics have been implicated as potential mechanisms underlying inclusion body myopathy (IBM) and related disorders. Yet the roles of core autophagy proteins in IBM and stress granule dynamics remain poorly characterized. Here, we demonstrate that disrupted expression of the core autophagy proteins ULK1 and ULK2 in mice causes a vacuolar myopathy with ubiquitin and TDP-43-positive inclusions; this myopathy is similar to that caused by VCP/p97 mutations, the most common cause of familial IBM. Mechanistically, we show that ULK1/2 localize to stress granules and phosphorylate VCP, thereby increasing VCP's activity and ability to disassemble stress granules. These data suggest that VCP dysregulation and defective stress granule disassembly contribute to IBM-like disease in Ulk1/2-deficient mice. In addition, stress granule disassembly is accelerated by an ULK1/2 agonist, suggesting ULK1/2 as targets for exploiting the higher-order regulation of stress granules for therapeutic intervention of IBM and related disorders.
Keywords: ATG1; ATG7; ULK1; ULK2; VCP; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; autophagy; inclusion body myopathy; p97; stress granules.
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