This compilation should be helpful for the community to look back at findings those inspired us during this year. Please suggest more articles those deserve the year end highlight. DM me @kaushal_bhati (Twitter)

1. A cross-kingdom conserved ER-phagy receptor maintains endoplasmic reticulum homeostasis during stress

Eukaryotes have evolved various quality control mechanisms to promote proteostasis in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Selective removal of certain ER domains via autophagy (termed as ER-phagy) has emerged as a major quality control mechanism. However, the degree to which ER-phagy is employed by other branches of ER-quality control remains largely elusive. Here, we identify a cytosolic protein, C53, that is specifically recruited to autophagosomes during ER-stress, in both plant and mammalian cells. C53 interacts with ATG8 via a distinct binding epitope, featuring a shuffled ATG8 interacting motif (sAIM). C53 senses proteotoxic stress in the ER lumen by forming a tripartite receptor complex with the ER-associated ufmylation ligase UFL1 and its membrane adaptor DDRGK1. The C53/UFL1/DDRGK1 receptor complex is activated by stalled ribosomes and induces the degradation of internal or passenger proteins in the ER. Consistently, the C53 receptor complex and ufmylation mutants are highly susceptible to ER stress. Thus, C53 forms an ancient quality control pathway that bridges selective autophagy with ribosome-associated quality control in the ER.

2.  Autophagy mediates temporary reprogramming and dedifferentiation in plant somatic cells

Somatic cells acclimate to changes in the environment by temporary reprogramming. Much has been learned about transcription factors that induce these cell‐state switches in both plants and animals, but how cells rapidly modulate their proteome remains elusive. Here, we show rapid induction of autophagy during temporary reprogramming in plants triggered by phytohormones, immune, and danger signals. Quantitative proteomics following sequential reprogramming revealed that autophagy is required for timely decay of previous cellular states and for tweaking the proteome to acclimate to the new conditions. Signatures of previous cellular programs thus persist in autophagy‐deficient cells, affecting cellular decision‐making. Concordantly, autophagy‐deficient cells fail to acclimatize to dynamic climate changes. Similarly, they have defects in dedifferentiating into pluripotent stem cells, and redifferentiation during organogenesis. These observations indicate that autophagy mediates cell‐state switches that underlie somatic cell reprogramming in plants and possibly other organisms, and thereby promotes phenotypic plasticity.

3. EXO70D isoforms mediate selective autophagic degradation of type-A ARR proteins to regulate cytokinin sensitivity

The phytohormone cytokinin influences many aspects of plant growth and development, several of which also involve the cellular process of autophagy, including leaf senescence, nutrient remobilization, and developmental transitions. The Arabidopsis type-A response regulators (type-A ARR) are negative regulators of cytokinin signaling that are transcriptionally induced in response to cytokinin. Here, we describe a mechanistic link between cytokinin signaling and autophagy, demonstrating that plants modulate cytokinin sensitivity through autophagic regulation of type-A ARR proteins. Type-A ARR proteins were degraded by autophagy in an AUTOPHAGY-RELATED (ATG)5-dependent manner, and this degradation is promoted by phosphorylation on a conserved aspartate in the receiver domain of the type-A ARRs. EXO70D family members interacted with type-A ARR proteins, likely in a phosphorylation-dependent manner, and recruited them to autophagosomes via interaction of the EXO70D AIM with the core autophagy protein, ATG8. Consistently, loss-of-function exo70D1,2,3 mutants exhibited compromised targeting of type-A ARRs to autophagic vesicles, have elevated levels of type-A ARR proteins, and are hyposensitive to cytokinin. Disruption of both type-A ARRs and EXO70D1,2,3 compromised survival in carbon-deficient conditions, suggesting interaction between autophagy and cytokinin responsiveness in response to stress. These results indicate that the EXO70D proteins act as selective autophagy receptors to target type-A ARR cargos for autophagic degradation, demonstrating modulation of cytokinin signaling by selective autophagy.

4.  AUTOPHAGY-RELATED14 And Its Associated Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinase Complex Promotes Autophagy In Arabidopsis

Phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate (PI3P) is an essential membrane signature for both autophagy and endosomal sorting that is synthesized in plants by the class-III phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) complex, consisting of the VPS34 kinase, together with ATG6, VPS15, and either VPS38 or ATG14 as the fourth subunit. While Arabidopsis plants missing the three core subunits are infertile, vps38 mutants are viable but have aberrant leaf, root and seed development, sucrose sensing, and endosomal trafficking, suggesting that VPS38 and ATG14 are non-redundant. Here, we evaluated the role of ATG14 through a collection of CRISPR/Cas9 and T-DNA insertion mutants disrupting the two Arabidopsis paralogs. atg14a atg14b double mutants were relatively normal phenotypically but displayed autophagy defects, including reduced accumulation of autophagic bodies and cargo delivery during nutrient stress. Unexpectedly, homozygous atg14a atg14b vps38 triple mutants were viable but showed severely compromised rosette development and reduced fecundity, pollen germination and autophagy, consistent with a need for both ATG14 and VPS38 to fully actuate PI3P biology. However, the triple mutants still accumulated PI3P, but were hypersensitive to the PI3K inhibitor wortmannin, indicating that the ATG14/VPS38 component is not essential for PI3P synthesis. Collectively, the ATG14/VPS38 mutant collection now permits the study of plants altered in specific aspects of PI3P biology.

5. Cotton leaf curl Multan virus βC1 Protein Induces Autophagy by Disrupting the Interaction of Autophagy-Related Protein 3 with Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases

Autophagy plays an important role in plant–pathogen interactions. Several pathogens including viruses induce autophagy in plants, but the underpinning mechanism remains largely unclear. Furthermore, in virus–plant interactions, viral factor(s) that induce autophagy have yet to be identified. Here, we report that the βC1 protein of Cotton leaf curl Multan betasatellite (CLCuMuB) interacts with cytosolic glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPC), a negative autophagic regulator, to induce autophagy in Nicotiana benthamiana. CLCuMuB βC1 bound to GAPCs and disrupted the interaction between GAPCs and autophagy-related protein 3 (ATG3). A mutant βC1 protein (βC13A) in which I45, Y48, and I53 were all substituted with Ala (A), had a dramatically reduced binding capacity with GAPCs, failed to disrupt the GAPCs-ATG3 interactions and failed to induce autophagy. Furthermore, mutant virus carrying βC13A showed increased symptoms and viral DNA accumulation associated with decreased autophagy in plants. These results suggest that CLCuMuB βC1 activates autophagy by disrupting GAPCs–ATG3 interactions.

6. Abscisic Acid-Triggered Persulfidation of Cysteine Protease ATG4 Mediates Regulation of Autophagy by Sulfide

Hydrogen sulfide is a signaling molecule that regulates essential processes in plants, such as autophagy. In Arabidopsis thaliana, hydrogen sulfide negatively regulates autophagy independently of reactive oxygen species via an unknown mechanism. Comparative and quantitative proteomic analysis was used to detect abscisic acid-triggered persulfidation that reveals a main role in the control of autophagy mediated by cysteine protease AtATG4a. This protease undergoes specific persulfidation of Cys170 that is a part of the characteristic catalytic Cys-His-Asp triad of cysteine proteases. Regulation of the ATG4 activity by persulfidation was tested in a heterologous assay using the Chlamydomonas reinhardtii CrATG8 protein as a substrate. Sulfide significantly and reversibly inactivates AtATG4a. The biological significance of the reversible inhibition of the ATG4 by sulfide is supported by the results obtained in Arabidopsis leaves under basal and autophagy-activating conditions. A significant increase in the overall ATG4 proteolytic activity in Arabidopsis was detected under nitrogen starvation and osmotic stress and can be inhibited by sulfide. Therefore, the data strongly suggest that the negative regulation of autophagy by sulfide is mediated by specific persulfidation of the ATG4 protease.

7. COST1 regulates autophagy to control plant drought tolerance

Plants balance their competing requirements for growth and stress tolerance via a sophisticated regulatory circuitry that controls responses to the external environments. We have identified a plant-specific gene, COST1 (constitutively stressed 1), that is required for normal plant growth but negatively regulates drought resistance by influencing the autophagy pathway. An Arabidopsis thaliana cost1 mutant has decreased growth and increased drought tolerance, together with constitutive autophagy and increased expression of drought-response genes, while overexpression of COST1 confers drought hypersensitivity and reduced autophagy. The COST1 protein is degraded upon plant dehydration, and this degradation is reduced upon treatment with inhibitors of the 26S proteasome or autophagy pathways. The drought resistance of a cost1 mutant is dependent on an active autophagy pathway, but independent of other known drought signaling pathways, indicating that COST1 acts through regulation of autophagy. In addition, COST1 colocalizes to autophagosomes with the autophagosome marker ATG8e and the autophagy adaptor NBR1, and affects the level of ATG8e protein through physical interaction with ATG8e, indicating a pivotal role in direct regulation of autophagy. We propose a model in which COST1 represses autophagy under optimal conditions, thus allowing plant growth. Under drought, COST1 is degraded, enabling activation of autophagy and suppression of growth to enhance drought tolerance. Our research places COST1 as an important regulator controlling the balance between growth and stress responses via the direct regulation of autophagy.

8. Identification of transcription factors that regulate ATG8 expression and autophagy in Arabidopsis

Autophagy is a conserved catabolic process in eukaryotes that contributes to cell survival in response to multiple stresses and is important for organism fitness. In Arabidopsis thaliana, the core machinery of autophagy is well defined, but its transcriptional regulation is largely unknown. The ATG8 (autophagy-related 8) protein plays central roles in decorating autophagosomes and binding to specific cargo receptors to recruit cargo to autophagosomes. We propose that the transcriptional control of ATG8 genes is important during the formation of autophagosomes and therefore contributes to survival during stress. Here, we describe a yeast one-hybrid (Y1H) screen for transcription factors (TFs) that regulate ATG8 gene expression in Arabidopsis, using the promoters of 4 ATG8 genes. We identified a total of 225 TFs from 35 families that bind these promoters. The TF-ATG8 promoter interactions revealed a wide array of diverse TF families for different promoters, as well as enrichment for families of TFs that bound to specific fragments. These TFs are not only involved in plant developmental processes but also in the response to environmental stresses. TGA9 (TGACG (TGA) motif-binding protein 9)/AT1G08320 was confirmed as a positive regulator of autophagy. TGA9 overexpression activated autophagy under both control and stress conditions and transcriptionally up-regulated expression of ATG8B, ATG8E and additional ATG genes via binding to their promoters. Our results provide a comprehensive resource of TFs that regulate ATG8 gene expression and lay a foundation for understanding the transcriptional regulation of plant autophagy.

9. HY5-HDA9 Module Transcriptionally Regulates Plant Autophagy in Response to Light-to-Dark Conversion and Nitrogen Starvation

Light is arguably one of the most important environmental factors that determines virtually all aspects of plant growth and development, but the molecular link between light signaling and the autophagy pathway has not been elucidated in plants. In this study, we demonstrate that autophagy is activated during light-to-dark conversion though transcriptional upregulation of autophagy-related genes (ATGs). We showed that depletion of the ELONGATED HYPOCOTYL 5 (HY5), a key component of light signaling, leads to enhanced autophagy activity and resistance to extended darkness and nitrogen starvation treatments, contributing to higher expression of ATGs. HY5 interacts with and recruits HISTONE DEACETYLASE 9 (HDA9) to ATG5 and ATG8e loci to repress their expression by deacetylation of the Lys9 and Lys27 of histone 3. Furthermore, we found that both darkness and nitrogen depletion induce the degradation of HY5 via 26S proteasome and the concomitant disassociation of HDA9 from ATG5 and ATG8e loci, leading to their depression and thereby activated autophagy. Genetic analysis further confirmed that HY5 and HDA9 act synergistically and function upstream of the autophagy pathway. Collectively, our study unveils a previously unknown transcriptional and epigenetic network that regulates autophagy in response to light-to-dark conversion and nitrogen starvation in plants.

10. Autophagy Plays Prominent Roles in Amino Acid, Nucleotide, and Carbohydrate Metabolism during Fixed-Carbon Starvation in Maize

Autophagic recycling of proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and organelles is essential for cellular homeostasis and optimal health, especially under nutrient-limiting conditions. To better understand how this turnover affects plant growth, development, and survival upon nutrient stress, we applied an integrated multiomics approach to study maize (Zea mays) autophagy mutants subjected to fixed-carbon starvation induced by darkness. Broad metabolic alterations were evident in leaves missing the core autophagy component ATG12 under normal growth conditions (e.g., lipids and secondary metabolism), while changes in amino acid-, carbohydrate-, and nucleotide-related metabolites selectively emerged during fixed-carbon starvation. Through combined proteomic and transcriptomic analyses, we identified numerous autophagy-responsive proteins, which revealed processes underpinning the various metabolic changes seen during carbon stress as well as potential autophagic cargo. Strikingly, a strong upregulation of various catabolic processes was observed in the absence of autophagy, including increases in simple carbohydrate levels with a commensurate drop in starch levels, elevated free amino acid levels with a corresponding reduction in intact protein levels, and a strong increase in the abundance of several nitrogen-rich nucleotide catabolites. Altogether, this analysis showed that fixed-carbon starvation in the absence of autophagy adjusts the choice of respiratory substrates, promotes the transition of peroxisomes to glyoxysomes, and enhances the retention of assimilated nitrogen.