Background: Perturbations in organellar health can lead to an accumulation of unwanted and/or damaged organelles that are toxic to the cell and which can contribute to the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease. Mitochondrial health is particularly critical given the indispensable role the organelle has not only in adenosine triphosphate production but also other metabolic processes. Byproducts of oxidative respiration, such as reactive oxygen species, however, can negatively impact mitochondrial fitness. Consequently, selective degradation of damaged mitochondria, which occurs via a specific autophagic process termed mitophagy, is essential for normal cell maintenance.
Scope of review: Recent accumulating evidence has shown that autophagy adaptors (also referred to as autophagy receptors) play critical roles in connecting ubiquitinated mitochondria with the autophagic machinery of the autophagy-lysosome pathway that is required for degradation. In this review, we focus on our current understanding of the autophagy adaptor mechanisms underlying PINK1/Parkin-driven mitophagy.
Major conclusions: Although autophagy adaptors are canonically defined as proteins that possess ubiquitin-binding domains and ATG8s-binding motifs, the recent identification of novel binding partners has contributed to the development of a more sophisticated model for how autophagy adaptors contribute to the molecular hub that organizes autophagic cargo-degradation.
General significance: Although mitophagy is recognized as one of the selective autophagy pathways that removes dysfunctional mitochondria, a more nuanced understanding of the interactions connecting autophagy adaptors and their associated proteins is needed to gain deeper insights into the fundamental biological processes underlying human diseases, including neurodegenerative disorders. This review is part of a Special Issue entitled Mitophagy.
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