A comparative map of macroautophagy and mitophagy in the vertebrate eye

Thomas G. McWilliams, Alan Prescott, Beatriz Villarejo-Zori, Graeme Ball, Patricia Boya, Ian Ganley (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)
255 Downloads (Pure)


Photoreception is pivotal to our experience and perception of the natural world; hence the eye is of prime importance for most vertebrate animals to sense light. Central to visual health is mitochondrial homeostasis, and the selective autophagic turnover of mitochondria (mitophagy) is predicted to play a key role here. Despite studies that link aberrant mitophagy to ocular dysfunction, little is known about the prevalence of basal mitophagy, or its relationship to general autophagy, in the visual system. In this study, we utilize the mito-QC mouse and a closely related general macroautophagy reporter model to profile basal mitophagy and macroautophagy in the adult and developing eye. We report that ocular macroautophagy is widespread, but surprisingly mitophagy does not always follow the same pattern of occurrence. We observe low levels of mitophagy in the lens and ciliary body, in stark contrast to the high levels of general MAP1LC3-dependent macroautophagy in these regions. We uncover a striking reversal of this process in the adult retina, where mitophagy accounts for a larger degree of the macroautophagy taking place, specifically in the photoreceptor neurons of the outer nuclear layer. We also show the developmental regulation of autophagy in a variety of ocular tissues. In particular, mitophagy in the adult mouse retina is reversed in localization during the latter stages of development. Our work thus defines the landscape of mitochondrial homeostasis in the mammalian eye, and in doing so highlights the selective nature of autophagy in vivo and the specificity of the reporters used. Abbreviations: ATG: autophagy related; GFP: green fluorescent protein; LC3: microtubule associated protein 1 light chain 3; ONH: optic nerve head; ONL: outer nuclear layer; RPE: retinal pigment epithelium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1296-1308
Number of pages13
Issue number7
Early online date20 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Autophagy
  • ciliary body
  • cornea
  • eye
  • hyaloid
  • lens
  • mito-QC
  • mitochondria
  • mitophagy
  • retina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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