Wipi3 is essential for alternative autophagy and its loss causes neurodegeneration

Nat Commun. 2020 Oct 20;11(1):5311. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-18892-w.


Alternative autophagy is an Atg5/Atg7-independent type of autophagy that contributes to various physiological events. We here identify Wipi3 as a molecule essential for alternative autophagy, but which plays minor roles in canonical autophagy. Wipi3 binds to Golgi membranes and is required for the generation of isolation membranes. We establish neuron-specific Wipi3-deficient mice, which show behavioral defects, mainly as a result of cerebellar neuronal loss. The accumulation of iron and ceruloplasmin is also found in the neuronal cells. These abnormalities are suppressed by the expression of Dram1, which is another crucial molecule for alternative autophagy. Although Atg7-deficient mice show similar phenotypes to Wipi3-deficient mice, electron microscopic analysis shows that they have completely different subcellular morphologies, including the morphology of organelles. Furthermore, most Atg7/Wipi3 double-deficient mice are embryonic lethal, indicating that Wipi3 functions to maintain neuronal cells via mechanisms different from those of canonical autophagy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy*
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 5 / genetics
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 5 / metabolism
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 7 / genetics
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 7 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Golgi Apparatus / genetics
  • Golgi Apparatus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology


  • Autophagy-Related Protein 5
  • DRAM-1 protein, mouse
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Autophagy-Related Protein 7