Liang, Wenjing, et al. “Aging Is Associated with a Decline in Atg9b‐Mediated Autophagosome Formation and Appearance of Enlarged Mitochondria in the Heart.” Aging Cell, vol. 19, no. 8, 2020, doi:10.1111/acel.13187.
Advancing age is a major risk factor for developing heart disease, and the biological processes contributing to aging are currently under intense investigation. Autophagy is an important cellular quality control mechanism that is reduced in tissues with age but the molecular mechanisms underlying the age‐associated defects in autophagy remain poorly characterized. Here, we have investigated how the autophagic process is altered in aged mouse hearts. We report that autophagic activity is reduced in aged hearts due to a reduction in autophagosome formation. Gene expression profile analysis to evaluate changes in autophagy regulators uncovered a reduction in Atg9b transcript and protein levels. Atg9 proteins are critical in delivering membrane to the growing autophagosome, and siRNA knockdown of Atg9b in cells confirmed a reduction in autophagosome formation. Autophagy is also the main pathway involved in eliminating dysfunctional mitochondria via a process known as mitophagy. The E3 ubiquitin ligase Parkin plays a key role in labeling mitochondria for mitophagy. We also found increased levels of Parkin‐positive mitochondria in the aged hearts, an indication that they have been labeled for mitophagy. In contrast, Nrf1, a major transcriptional regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis, was significantly reduced in aged hearts. Additionally, our data showed reduced Drp1‐mediated mitochondrial fission and formation of enlarged mitochondria in the aged heart. Overall, our findings suggest that cardiac aging is associated with reduced autophagosome number, decreased mitochondrial turnover, and formation of megamitochondria.