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Activation of PINK1 and Parkin in response to mitochondrial damage initiates a response that includes phosphorylation of RAB7A at Ser72. Rubicon is a RAB7A binding negative regulator of autophagy. The structure of the Rubicon:RAB7A complex suggests that phosphorylation of RAB7A at Ser72 would block Rubicon binding. Indeed, in vitro phosphorylation of RAB7A by TBK1 abrogates Rubicon:RAB7A binding. Pacer, a positive regulator of autophagy, has an RH domain with a basic triad predicted to bind an introduced phosphate. Consistent with this, Pacer-RH binds to phosho-RAB7A but not to unphosphorylated RAB7A. In cells, mitochondrial depolarization reduces Rubicon:RAB7A colocalization whilst recruiting Pacer to phospho-RAB7A-positive puncta. Pacer knockout reduces Parkin mitophagy with little effect on bulk autophagy or Parkin-independent mitophagy. Rescue of Parkin-dependent mitophagy requires the intact pRAB7A phosphate-binding basic triad of Pacer. Together these structural and functional data support a model in which the TBK1-dependent phosphorylation of RAB7A serves as a switch, promoting mitophagy by relieving Rubicon inhibition and favoring Pacer activation. © 2024 Tudorica et al.


Dan A Tudorica, Bishal Basak, Alexia S Puerta Cordova, Grace Khuu, Kevin Rose, Michael Lazarou, Erika L F Holzbaur, James H Hurley. A RAB7A phosphoswitch coordinates Rubicon Homology protein regulation of Parkin-dependent mitophagy. The Journal of cell biology. 2024 Jul 01;223(7)

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PMID: 38728007

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