Deletion of PIK3C3/Vps34 in sensory neurons causes rapid neurodegeneration by disrupting the endosomal but not the autophagic pathway.
Zhou X, Wang L, Hasegawa H, Amin P, Han BX, Kaneko S, He Y, Wang F.
The lipid kinase PIK3C3 (also called Vps34) regulates both the endosomal and autophagic pathways. However, the effect of inactivating PIK3C3 on neuronal endosomal versus autophagic processes in vivo has not been studied. We generated mice in which Pik3c3 was conditionally deleted in differentiated sensory neurons. Within a few days after Pik3c3 deletion, mutant large-diameter myelinated neurons accumulated numerous enlarged vacuoles and ubiquitin-positive aggregates and underwent rapid degeneration. By contrast, Pik3c3-deficient small-diameter unmyelinated neurons accumulated excessive numbers of lysosome-like organelles and degenerated more slowly. These differential degenerative phenotypes are unlikely caused by a disruption in the autophagy pathway, because inhibiting autophagy alone by conditional deletion of Atg7 results in a completely distinct phenotype in all sensory neurons (i.e., formation of very large intracellular inclusion bodies and slow degeneration over a period of several months). More surprisingly, a noncanonical PIK3C3-independent LC3-positive autophagosome formation pathway was activated in Pik3c3-deficient small-diameter neurons. Analyses of Pik3c3/Atg7 double mutant neurons revealed that this unconventional initiation pathway still depends on ATG7. Our studies represent in vivo characterization of PIK3C3 functions in mammals and provide insights into the complexity of neuronal endo-lysosomal and autophagic pathways.