Molecular mechanisms of autophagy in plants: Role of ATG8 proteins in formation and functioning of autophagosomes
We present evidence that protein bodies constitute the principal lytic compartment in storage parenchyma cells of mung bean cotyledons and propose that they play a role in cellular autophagy. We developed a method to isolate protein bodies by incubating tissue slices with cell wall-degrading enzymes and fractionating the cellular organelles on a Ficoll gradient. About 75-80% of the protein bodies present in the protoplasts were recovered intact in a band at the 5/25% Ficoll interface. This band contained a similar proportion of the cellular alpha-mannosidase, N-acetyl-beta-glucosaminidase, ribonuclease, acid phosphatase, phosphodiesterase, and phospholipase D. beta-Amylase was present in the cells but not in the protein bodies. Ultrastructural observations showed that on the 3rd day of seedling growth protein bodies contain small vesicles (0.3-1.0 mum) with a cytoplasmic content (ribosomes, membrane vesicles, mitochondria). Later in seedling growth these vesicles appeared empty. We believe that these are autophagic vesicles resulting from invaginations of the protein body membrane and that their cytoplasmic contents are digested by the acid hydrolases present in the protein bodies.