ATG4 family proteins drive phagophore growth independently of the LC3/GABARAP lipidation system_Nguyen et al
The sequestration of damaged mitochondria within double-membrane structures termed autophagosomes is a key step of PINK1/Parkin mitophagy. The ATG4 family of proteases are thought to regulate autophagosome formation exclusively by processing the ubiquitin-like ATG8 family (LC3/GABARAPs). We discover that human ATG4s promote autophagosome formation independently of their protease activity and of ATG8 family processing. ATG4 proximity networks reveal a role for ATG4s and their proximity partners, including the immune-disease protein LRBA, in ATG9A vesicle trafficking to mitochondria. Artificial intelligence-directed 3D electron microscopy of phagophores shows that ATG4s promote phagophore-ER contacts during the lipid-transfer phase of autophagosome formation. We also show that ATG8 removal during autophagosome maturation does not depend on ATG4 activity. Instead, we find that ATG4s can disassemble ATG8-protein conjugates, revealing a role for ATG4s as deubiquitinating-like enzymes. These findings establish non-canonical roles of the ATG4 family beyond the ATG8 lipidation axis and provide an AI-driven framework for rapid 3D electron microscopy.