Macroautophagy is a conserved degradative process for maintaining cellular homeostasis and plays a key role in aging and various human disorders. The microtubule-associated protein 1A/1B light chain 3B (MAP1LC3B or LC3B) is commonly analyzed as a key marker for autophagosomes and as a proxy for autophagic flux. Three paralogues of the LC3 gene exist in humans: LC3A, LC3B and LC3C. The molecular function, regulation and cellular localization of LC3A and LC3C have not been investigated frequently, even if a similar function to that described for LC3B appears likely. Here, we have selectively decapacitated LC3B by three separate strategies in primary human fibroblasts and analyzed the evoked effects on LC3A, LC3B and LC3C in terms of their cellular distribution and co-localization with p62, a ubiquitin and autophagy receptor. First, treatment with pharmacological sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) inhibitors to prevent the translocation of LC3B from the nucleus into the cytosol induced an increase in cytosolic LC3C, a heightened co-localization of LC3C with p62, and an increase LC3C-dependent autophagic flux as assessed by protein lipidation. Cytosolic LC3A, however, was moderately reduced, but also more co-localized with p62. Second, siRNA-based knock-down of SIRT1 broadly reproduced these findings and increased the co-localization of LC3A and particularly LC3C with p62 in presumed autophagosomes. These effects resembled the effects of pharmacological sirtuin inhibition under normal and starvation conditions. Third, siRNA-based knock-down of total LC3B in cytosol and nucleus also induced a redistribution of LC3C as if to replace LC3B in the nucleus, but only moderately affected LC3A. Total protein expression of LC3A, LC3B, LC3C, GABARAP and GABARAP-L1 following LC3B decapacitation was unaltered. Our data indicate that nuclear trapping and other causes of LC3B functional loss in the cytosol are buffered by LC3A and actively compensated by LC3C, but not by GABARAPs. The biological relevance of the potential functional compensation of LC3B decapacitation by LC3C and LC3A warrants further study.
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