Dysfunction of autophagy and disturbed protein homeostasis are linked to the pathogenesis of human neurodegenerative diseases and the modulation of autophagy as the protein clearance process has become one key pharmacological target. Due to the role of sigma-1 receptors (Sig-1R) in learning and memory, and the described pleiotropic neuroprotective effects in various experimental paradigms, Sig-1R activation is recognized as one potential approach for prevention and therapy of neurodegeneration and, interestingly, in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis associated with mutated Sig-1R, autophagy is disturbed. Here we analyzed the effects of tetrahydro-N
-dimethyl-2,2-diphenyl-3-furanmethanamine hydrochloride (ANAVEX2-73), a muscarinic receptor ligand and Sig-1R agonist, on autophagy and proteostasis. We describe, at the molecular level, for the first time, that pharmacological Sig-1R activation a) enhances the autophagic flux in human cells and in Caenorhabditis elegans
and b) increases proteostasis capacity, ultimately ameliorating paralysis caused by protein aggregation in C. elegans
. ANAVEX2-73 is already in clinical investigation for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, and the novel activities of this compound on autophagy and proteostasis described here may have consequences for the use and further development of the Sig-1R as a drug target in the future. Moreover, our study defines the Sig-1R as an upstream modulator of canonical autophagy, which may have further implications for various conditions with dysfunctional autophagy, besides neurodegeneration.
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