Autophagy 2012 Aug 24;8(8):1227-44. Epub 2012 May 24.
Discovery & ADMET-TOX Systems--Life Technologies Corporation, Madison, WI, USA.
Autophagy involves the isolation and targeting of unwanted cellular components to lysosomes for their digestion and reuse. Autophagic dysregulation has recently been implicated in a wide range of disease processes, yet facile methods for quantifying autophagy have been lacking in the field. Here we describe the generation of a quantitative plate reader assay for measuring the autophagic activity of cells. One of the best characterized autophagy markers is the protein LC3B, which normally resides in the cytosol (LC3B-I) but upon induction of autophagy becomes lipidated and embedded in autophagosomal membranes (LC3B-II). To quantify autophagy, we reasoned that GFP-tagged LC3B could serve as a time-resolved fluorescence resonance energy transfer (TR-FRET) acceptor upon cell lysis in the presence of terbium-labeled LC3B antibodies. Using this TR-FRET immunoassay approach, we screened a panel of LC3B antibodies and identified an antibody that exhibits strong preferential affinity toward autophagosome-associated LC3B-II and thereby facilitates specific detection of autophagic activity. The plate reader format provides both a quantitative and an objective result, thus overcoming some of the key limitations of the traditional immunoblotting and imaging approaches used to monitor autophagy. Moreover, since the assay step requires only a single addition of cell lysis buffer containing the detection antibody its simple workflow is both automation-friendly and scalable, which renders it suitable for high-throughput screening. We demonstrate how this TR-FRET immunoassay for GFP-tagged LC3B-II can be applied to quantitatively detect changes in the autophagy activity of cells, including estimating effects on autophagic flux.
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