Promiscuous Roles of Autophagy and Proteasome in Neurodegenerative Proteinopathies

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Apr 24;21(8):3028. doi: 10.3390/ijms21083028.


Alterations in autophagy and the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS) are commonly implicated in protein aggregation and toxicity which manifest in a number of neurological disorders. In fact, both UPS and autophagy alterations are bound to the aggregation, spreading and toxicity of the so-called prionoid proteins, including alpha synuclein (α-syn), amyloid-beta (Aβ), tau, huntingtin, superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD-1), TAR-DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43) and fused in sarcoma (FUS). Recent biochemical and morphological studies add to this scenario, focusing on the coordinated, either synergistic or compensatory, interplay that occurs between autophagy and the UPS. In fact, a number of biochemical pathways such as mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), transcription factor EB (TFEB), Bcl2-associated athanogene 1/3 (BAG3/1) and glycogen synthase kinase beta (GSk3β), which are widely explored as potential targets in neurodegenerative proteinopathies, operate at the crossroad between autophagy and UPS. These biochemical steps are key in orchestrating the specificity and magnitude of the two degradation systems for effective protein homeostasis, while intermingling with intracellular secretory/trafficking and inflammatory pathways. The findings discussed in the present manuscript are supposed to add novel viewpoints which may further enrich our insight on the complex interactions occurring between cell-clearing systems, protein misfolding and propagation. Discovering novel mechanisms enabling a cross-talk between the UPS and autophagy is expected to provide novel potential molecular targets in proteinopathies.

Keywords: FUS; SOD-1; TDP-43; alpha-synuclein; amyloid-beta; cell-to-cell propagation; huntingtin; neuro-inflammation; prion-like; tau.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / genetics
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism
  • Autophagy* / genetics
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Communication
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • GPI-Linked Proteins / genetics
  • GPI-Linked Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / etiology*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Prions / genetics
  • Prions / metabolism
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism*
  • Proteolysis
  • Signal Transduction


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Biomarkers
  • GPI-Linked Proteins
  • PRND protein, human
  • Prions
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex