TipC and the chorea-acanthocytosis protein VPS13A regulate autophagy in Dictyostelium and human HeLa cells
Deficient autophagy causes a distinct phenotype in Dictyostelium discoideum, characterized by the formation of multitips at the mound stage. This led us to analyze autophagy in a number of multitipped mutants described previously (tipA−, tipB−, tipC−, and tipD−). We found a clear autophagic dysfunction in tipC− and tipD− while the others showed no defects. tipD codes for a homolog of Atg16, which confirms the role of this protein in Dictyostelium autophagy and validates our approach. The tipC-encoded protein is highly similar to human VPS13A (also known as chorein), whose mutations cause the chorea-acanthocytosis syndrome. No member of the VPS13 protein family has been previously related to autophagy despite the presence of a region of similarity to Atg2 at the C terminus. This region also contains the conserved domain of unknown function DUF1162. Of interest, the expression of the TipC C-terminal coding sequence containing these 2 motifs largely complemented the mutant phenotype. Dictyostelium cells lacking TipC displayed a reduced number of autophagosomes visualized with the markers GFP-Atg18 and GFP-Atg8 and an impaired autophagic degradation as determined by a proteolytic cleavage assay. Downregulation of human VPS13A in HeLa cells by RNA interference confirmed the participation of the human protein in autophagy. VPS13A-depleted cells showed accumulation of autophagic markers and impaired autophagic flux.