Autophagic degradation of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER-phagy) is triggered by ER stress in diverse organisms. However, molecular mechanisms governing ER stress-induced ER-phagy remain insufficiently understood. Here we report that ER stress-induced ER-phagy in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe requires Epr1, a soluble Atg8-interacting ER-phagy receptor. Epr1 localizes to the ER through interacting with integral ER membrane proteins VAPs. Bridging an Atg8-VAP association is the main ER-phagy role of Epr1, as it can be bypassed by an artificial Atg8-VAP tether. VAPs contribute to ER-phagy not only by tethering Atg8 to the ER membrane, but also by maintaining the ER-plasma membrane contact. Epr1 is upregulated during ER stress by the unfolded protein response (UPR) regulator Ire1. Loss of Epr1 reduces survival against ER stress. Conversely, increasing Epr1 expression suppresses the ER-phagy defect and ER stress sensitivity of cells lacking Ire1. Our findings expand and deepen the molecular understanding of ER-phagy.
Keywords: ER stress; ER-phagy; ER-plasma membrane contact; UPR; autophagy; autophagy receptor.
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