Autophagy is a highly regulated degradative process crucial for maintaining cell homeostasis. This important catabolic mechanism can be nonspecific, but usually occurs with fine spatial selectivity (compartmentalization), engaging only specific subcellular sites. While the molecular machines driving autophagy are well understood, the involvement of localized signaling events in this process is not well defined. Among the pathways that regulate autophagy, the cyclic AMP (cAMP)/protein kinase A (PKA) cascade can be compartmentalized in distinct functional units called microdomains. However, while it is well established that, depending on the cell type, cAMP can inhibit or promote autophagy, the role of cAMP/PKA microdomains has not been tested. Here we show not only that the effects on autophagy of the same cAMP elevation differ in different cell types, but that they depend on a highly complex sub-compartmentalization of the signaling cascade. We show in addition that, in HT-29 cells, in which autophagy is modulated by cAMP rising treatments, PKA activity is strictly regulated in space and time by phosphatases, which largely prevent the phosphorylation of soluble substrates, while membrane-bound targets are less sensitive to the action of these enzymes. Interestingly, we also found that the subcellular distribution of PKA type-II regulatory PKA subunits hinders the effect of PKA on autophagy, while displacement of type-I regulatory PKA subunits has no effect. Our data demonstrate that local PKA activity can occur independently of local cAMP concentrations and provide strong evidence for a link between localized PKA signaling events and autophagy.
Iannucci L. F.
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