HUWE1 controls MCL1 stability to unleash AMBRA1-induced mitophagy

Flavie Strappazzon, Anthea Di Rita, Angelo Peschiaroli, Pier Paolo Leoncini, Franco Locatelli, Gerry Melino, Francesco Cecconi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Receptor-mediated mitophagy is a crucial process involved in mitochondria quality control. AMBRA1 is a mitophagy receptor for the selective removal of damaged mitochondria in mammalian cells. A critical unresolved issue is how AMBRA1-mediated mitophagy is controlled in response to cellular stress. Here, we investigated the role of BCL2-family proteins on AMBRA1-dependent mitophagy and showed that MCL1 delays AMBRA1-dependent mitophagy. Indeed, MCL1 overexpression is sufficient to inhibit recruitment to mitochondria of the E3 Ubiquitin ligase HUWE1, a crucial dynamic partner of AMBRA1, upon AMBRA1-mediated mitophagy induction. In addition, we found that during mitophagy induced by AMBRA1, MCL1 levels decreased but were sustained by inhibition of the GSK-3β kinase, which delayed AMBRA1-mediated mitophagy. Also, we showed that MCL1 was phosphorylated by GSK-3β at a conserved GSK-3 phosphorylation site (S159) during AMBRA1-mediated mitophagy and that this event was accompanied by HUWE1-dependent MCL1 degradation. Altogether, our results demonstrate that MCL1 stability is regulated by the kinase GSK-3β and the E3 ubiquitin ligase HUWE1 in regulating AMBRA1-mediated mitophagy. Our work thus defines MCL1 as an upstream stress-sensitive protein, functional in AMBRA1-mediated mitophagy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCell Death and Differentiation
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


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