A research team from Korea University led by Professor Hyun Kyu Song has discovered an important mechanism between protein complexes during the initiation stage of autophagy, a cellular process where waste products and components are degraded and recycled. The team obtained the structure of the ATG101 protein, including the conformation of its C-terminal region. This region was found to mediate the binding of the UheK1 and PI3K complexes, which help regulate the initiation process. Furthermore, the deletion of the C-terminal region resulted in reduced interactions between the two complexes.
Among the three autophagy stages, the initiation stage is governed by rather complex signaling processes, and therefore is a less studied area of research in comparison to the other two stages. These results, according to Professor Song, will increase our knowledge of the mechanisms occurring in this phase. Moreover, it could extend our understanding in other studies related to autophagy, including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and infectious diseases.