Autophagy is triggered during nutrient and energy deprivation in a variety of cells as a homeostatic response to metabolic stress. In the CNS, deficient autophagy has been implicated in neurodegenerative diseases and ischemic brain injury. However, its role in hypoglycemic damage is poorly understood and the dynamics of autophagy during the hypoglycemic and the glucose reperfusion periods, has not been fully described. In the present study, we analyzed the changes in the content of the autophagy proteins BECN1, LC3-II and p62/SQSTM1 by western blot, and autophagosome formation was followed through time-lapse experiments, during glucose deprivation (GD) and glucose reintroduction (GR) in cortical cultures. According to the results, autophagosome formation rapidly increased during GD, and was followed by an active autophagic flux early after glucose replenishment. However, cells progressively died during GR and autophagy inhibition reduced neuronal death. Neurons undergoing apoptosis during GR did not form autophagosomes, while those surviving up to late GR showed autophagosomes. Calpain activity strongly increased during GR and remained elevated during progressive neuronal death. Its activation led to the cleavage of LAMP2 resulting in lysosome membrane permeabilization (LMP) and release of cathepsin B to the cytosol. Calpain inhibition prevented LMP and increased the number of neurons containing lysosomes and autophagosomes increasing cell viability. Taken together, the present results suggest that calpain-mediated lysosome dysfunction during GR turns an adaptive autophagy response to energy stress into a defective autophagy pathway, which contributes to neuronal death. In these conditions, autophagy inhibition results in the improvement of cell survival.
Última actualización: 19/01/2018