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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Autophagy-mediated turnover of Dynamin-related Protein 1

Phillip R Purnell and Howard S Fox*

Author affiliations

Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2013, 14:86  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-14-86

Published: 9 August 2013



Drp1 is the primary protein responsible for mitochondrial fission. Perturbations of mitochondrial morphology and increased fission are seen in neurodegeneration. While Drp1 degradation induced by Parkin overexpression can be prevented by proteasome inhibition, there are numerous links between proteasomal and autophagic processes in mitochondrial protein degradation. Here we investigated the role of autophagy in Drp1 regulation.


We demonstrate that autophagy plays a major role in the control of Drp1 levels. In HEK-293T cells, inhibitors of autophagy increase total Drp1 and levels of Drp1 in the mitochondrial cellular fraction. Similarly by silencing ATG7, which is required for initiation of autophagy, there is an increased level of Drp1. Because of the role of increased Drp1 in neurodegeneration, we then examined the ability to modulate Drp1 levels in neurons by inducing autophagy. We are able to decrease Drp1 levels in a time- and dose-dependent manner with the potent neuronal autophagy inducer 10-NCP, as well as structurally related compounds. Further, 10-NCP was able increase average mitochondrial size and length verifying a functional result of Drp1 depletion in these neurons.


These pharmacological and genetic approaches indicate that autophagy targets Drp1 for lysosomal degradation. Additionally these data suggest a mechanism, through Drp1 downregulation, which may partly explain the ability of autophagy to have a neuroprotective effect.

Drp1; Autophagy; Neuron