• Authors: Hilverling A. et al.
  • Year: 2021
  • Journal: Cell Mol Neurobiol
  • Applications: in vitro / DNA / jetOPTIMUS
  • Cell type: Mouse primary astrocytes


Astrocytes were first cultured for 5-7 days. Microglia growing on the top of the astrocyte layer were mechanically detached. Astrocytes were expanded for additional 7-10 days in a T-75 flask. For imaging, 25 000 cells/well (24-well plate) were seeded and cultured for further 2-3 days before fixation. To determine the distribution of α-synuclein positive vesicles, astrocytes were transfected with CFP-tagged α-synuclein using JetOptimus with 250 ng DNA per well. Transfected astrocytes were fixed 48 h after transfection.


Autophagosome maturation comprises fusion with lysosomes and acidification. It is a critical step in the degradation of cytosolic protein aggregates that characterize many neurodegenerative diseases. In order to better understand this process, we studied intracellular trafficking of autophagosomes and aggregates of α-synuclein, which characterize Parkinson's disease and other synucleinopathies. The autophagosomal marker LC3 and the aggregation prone A53T mutant of α-synuclein were tagged by fluorescent proteins and expressed in HEK293T cells and primary astrocytes. The subcellular distribution and movement of these vesicle populations were analyzed by (time-lapse) microscopy. Fusion with lysosomes was assayed using the lysosomal marker LAMP1; vesicles with neutral and acidic luminal pH were discriminated using the RFP-GFP "tandem-fluorescence" tag. With respect to vesicle pH, we observed that neutral autophagosomes, marked by LC3 or synuclein, were located more frequently in the cell center, and acidic autophagosomes were observed more frequently in the cell periphery. Acidic autophagosomes were transported towards the cell periphery more often, indicating that acidification occurs in the cell center before transport to the periphery. With respect to autolysosomal fusion, we found that lysosomes preferentially moved towards the cell center, whereas autolysosomes moved towards the cell periphery, suggesting a cycle where lysosomes are generated in the periphery and fuse to autophagosomes in the cell center. Unexpectedly, many acidic autophagosomes were negative for LAMP1, indicating that acidification does not require fusion to lysosomes. Moreover, we found both neutral and acidic vesicles positive for LAMP1, consistent with delayed acidification of the autolysosome lumen. Individual steps of aggregate clearance thus occur in dedicated cellular regions. During aggregate clearance, autophagosomes and autolysosomes form in the center and are transported towards the periphery during maturation. In this process, luminal pH could regulate the direction of vesicle transport. (1) Transport and location of autophagosomes depend on luminal pH: Acidic autophagosomes are preferentially transported to the cell periphery, causing more acidic autophagosomes in the cell periphery and more neutral autophagosomes at the microtubule organizing center (MTOC). (2) Autolysosomes are transported to the cell periphery and lysosomes to the MTOC, suggesting spatial segregation of lysosome reformation and autolysosome fusion. (3) Synuclein aggregates are preferentially located at the MTOC and synuclein-containing vesicles in the cell periphery, consistent with transport of aggregates to the MTOC for autophagy.