Autophagy has been implicated in a number of physiological processes important for human heath and disease. Autophagy involves the formation of a double-membrane cytosolic vesicle, an autophagosome. Central to the formation of the autophagosome is the ubiquitin-like protein autophagy-related (Atg)8 (microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3/LC3 in mammalian cells). Following autophagy induction, Atg8 shows the greatest change in expression of any of the proteins required for autophagy. The magnitude of autophagy is, in part, controlled by the amount of Atg8; thus, controlling Atg8 protein levels is one potential mechanism for modulating autophagy activity. We have identified a negative regulator of ATG8 transcription, Ume6, which acts along with a histone deacetylase complex including Sin3 and Rpd3 to regulate Atg8 levels; deletion of any of these components leads to an increase in Atg8 and a concomitant increase in autophagic activity. A similar regulatory mechanism is present in mammalian cells, indicating that this process is highly conserved.
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