G9a/GLP methyltransferase inhibits autophagy by methylation-mediated ATG12 protein degradation
Previous studies showed that G9a, a lysine methyltransferase, inhibits autophagy by repressing the transcription of autophagy genes. Here, we demonstrate a novel mechanism whereby G9a/GLP inhibits autophagy through post-translational modification of ATG12, a protein critical for the initiation of autophagosome formation. Under non-stress conditions, G9a/GLP directly methylates ATG12. The methylated ATG12 undergoes ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation, thereby suppressing autophagy induction. By contrast, under stress conditions that elevate intracellular Ca2+ levels, the activated calpain system cleaves the G9a/GLP proteins, leading to G9a/GLP protein degradation. The reduced G9a/GLP levels allow ATG12 to accumulate and form the ATG12-ATG5 conjugate, thus expediting autophagy initiation. Collectively, our findings reveal a distinct signaling pathway that links cellular stress responses involving Ca2+/calpain to G9a/GLP-mediated autophagy regulation. Moreover, our model proposes that the methylation status of ATG12 is a molecular rheostat that controls autophagy induction.