Macroautophagy/autophagy (hereafter autophagy), the process of mass degradation of unnecessary elements within the cell, is often dysregulated in many diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, and neurodegenerative diseases. Hence, autophagy modulating agents have a great potential to be therapeutic agents for the autophagy-related diseases. Here we report that an anti-depressant drug sertraline (Sert) is an autophagy-inducing agent. Mechanistically, Sert potentially binds to and antagonizes the mitochondrial VDAC1 (voltage dependent anion channel 1), resulting in reduced cellular ATP (adenosine triphosphate) level, activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and inhibition of its downstream, MTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin kinase)-RPS6KB1 (ribosomal protein S6 kinase B1) signaling pathway. Cells lacking VDAC1 expression completely abrogate the modulatory effect of Sert on AMPK-MTOR pathway and autophagy-inducing activity. We further show that Sert suppresses tauopathy by promoting the autophagic degradation of MAPT (microtubule associated protein tau) protein via inducing autophagy. Our study demonstrates the potential of Sert as a novel small molecule autophagy-inducing agent and provides a new drug candidate to treat autophagy related diseases by targeting VDAC1.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology