Approaches for Studying Autophagy in Caenorhabditis elegans
Institute for Integrative Biology of the Cell (I2BC), CEA, CNRS, Univ. Paris-Sud, Université Paris-Saclay, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette CEDEX, France
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Cells 2017, 6(3), 27; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells6030027
Received: 25 July 2017 / Revised: 25 August 2017 / Accepted: 26 August 2017 / Published: 30 August 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Assays to Monitor Autophagy in Model Systems)
Macroautophagy (hereafter referred to as autophagy) is an intracellular degradative process, well conserved among eukaryotes. By engulfing cytoplasmic constituents into the autophagosome for degradation, this process is involved in the maintenance of cellular homeostasis. Autophagy induction triggers the formation of a cup-shaped double membrane structure, the phagophore, which progressively elongates and encloses materials to be removed. This double membrane vesicle, which is called an autophagosome, fuses with lysosome and forms the autolysosome. The inner membrane of the autophagosome, along with engulfed compounds, are degraded by lysosomal enzymes, which enables the recycling of carbohydrates, amino acids, nucleotides, and lipids. In response to various factors, autophagy can be induced for non-selective degradation of bulk cytoplasm. Autophagy is also able to selectively target cargoes and organelles such as mitochondria or peroxisome, functioning as a quality control system. The modification of autophagy flux is involved in developmental processes such as resistance to stress conditions, aging, cell death, and multiple pathologies. So, the use of animal models is essential for understanding these processes in the context of different cell types throughout the entire lifespan. For almost 15 years, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has emerged as a powerful model to analyze autophagy in physiological or pathological contexts. This review presents a rapid overview of physiological processes involving autophagy in Caenorhabditis elegans, the different assays used to monitor autophagy, their drawbacks, and specific tools for the analyses of selective autophagy.