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Cytoplasmic sphingosine-1-phosphate pathway modulates neuronal autophagy.

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Autophagy is an important homeostatic mechanism that eliminates long-lived proteins, protein aggregates and damaged organelles. Its dysregulation is involved in many neurodegenerative disorders. Autophagy is therefore a promising target for blunting neurodegeneration. We searched for novel autophagic pathways in primary neurons and identified the cytosolic sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) pathway as a regulator of neuronal autophagy. S1P, a bioactive lipid generated by sphingosine kinase 1 (SK1) in the cytoplasm, is implicated in cell survival. We found that SK1 enhances flux through autophagy and that S1P-metabolizing enzymes decrease this flux. When autophagy is stimulated, SK1 relocalizes to endosomes/autophagosomes in neurons. Expression of a dominant-negative form of SK1 inhibits autophagosome synthesis. In a neuron model of Huntington's disease, pharmacologically inhibiting S1P-lyase protected neurons from mutant huntingtin-induced neurotoxicity. These results identify the S1P pathway as a novel regulator of neuronal autophagy and provide a new target for developing therapies for neurodegenerative disorders.

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