Neurons depend on macroautophagy/autophagy to maintain cellular homeostasis, and loss of autophagy leads to neurodegeneration. To better understand the role of basal autophagy in neurons, we enriched autophagic vesicles from healthy adult mouse brain and performed mass spectrometry to identify cargos cleared by autophagy. We found that synaptic and mitochondrial proteins comprise nearly half of the unique AV cargos identified in brain. Similarly, synaptic and mitochondrial proteins are major cargos for basal autophagy in neurons. Strikingly, we noted a specific enrichment of mitochondrial nucleoids within neuronal autophagosomes, which occurs through a mechanism distinct from damage-associated mitophagy. Here, we discuss the implications of these findings for our understanding of homeostatic mechanisms in neurons and how the age-dependent decline of autophagy in neurons may contribute to the onset or progression of neurodegenerative disease.
Keywords: DNM1L; SYN1; TFAM; macroautophagy; mitochondria; mitochondrial division; mitochondrial nucleoids; mitophagy; neurodegeneration; neuronal homeostasis.