Autophagy is typically a prosurvival cellular process that promotes the turnover of long-lived proteins and damaged organelles, but it can also induce cell death. We have previously reported that the small molecule Z36 induces autophagy along with autophagic cell death in HeLa cells. In this study, we analyzed differential gene expression in Z36-treated HeLa cells and found that Z36-induced endoplasmic reticulum-specific autophagy (ER-phagy) results in ER stress and the unfolded protein response (UPR). This result is in contrast to the common notion that autophagy is generally activated in response to ER stress and the UPR. We demonstrate that Z36 up-regulates the expression levels of FAM134B, LC3, and Atg9, which together mediate excessive ER-phagy, characterized by forming increased numbers of autophagosomes with larger sizes. We noted that the excessive ER-phagy accelerates ER degradation and impairs ER homeostasis and thereby triggers ER stress and the UPR as well as ER-phagy-dependent cell death. Interestingly, overexpression of FAM134B alone in HeLa cells is sufficient to impair ER homeostasis and cause ER stress and cell death. These findings suggest a mechanism involving FAM134B activity for ER-phagy to promote cell death.
Keywords: Bcl-xL inhibitor; ER-phagy; FAM134B; Z36; autophagy; cell death; endoplasmic reticulum (ER); endoplasmic reticulum stress (ER stress); reticulophagy regulator 1 (RETREG1); unfolded protein response (UPR).
© 2019 Liao et al.