Antidepressant drug sertraline modulates AMPK-MTOR signaling-mediated autophagy via targeting mitochondrial VDAC1 protein

Hui Yun Hwang, Joong Sup Shim, Dasol Kim, Ho Jeong Kwon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Macroautophagy/autophagy (hereafter autophagy), the process of mass degradation of unnecessary elements within the cell, is often dysregulated in many diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, and neurodegenerative diseases. Hence, autophagy modulating agents have a great potential to be therapeutic agents for the autophagy-related diseases. Here we report that an anti-depressant drug sertraline (Sert) is an autophagy-inducing agent. Mechanistically, Sert potentially binds to and antagonizes the mitochondrial VDAC1 (voltage dependent anion channel 1), resulting in reduced cellular ATP (adenosine triphosphate) level, activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and inhibition of its downstream, MTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin kinase)-RPS6KB1 (ribosomal protein S6 kinase B1) signaling pathway. Cells lacking VDAC1 expression completely abrogate the modulatory effect of Sert on AMPK-MTOR pathway and autophagy-inducing activity. We further show that Sert suppresses tauopathy by promoting the autophagic degradation of MAPT (microtubule associated protein tau) protein via inducing autophagy. Our study demonstrates the potential of Sert as a novel small molecule autophagy-inducing agent and provides a new drug candidate to treat autophagy related diseases by targeting VDAC1. Abbreviations: AMP: adenosine monophosphate; AMPK: AMP-activated protein kinase; ATP: adenosine triphosphate; Baf: bafilomycin A1; BiFC: biomolecular fluorescence complementation; CAMKK2/CAMKKB: calcium/calmodulin dependent protein kinase kinase 2; CC: compound C; DARTS: drug affinity responsive target stability; HUVECs: human umbilical vein endothelial cells; Inda: indatraline; STK11/LKB1: serine/threonine kinase 11; MAPT: microtubule associated protein tau; MAP1LC3/LC3: microtubule associated protein 1 light chain 3; 3-MA: 3-methyladenine; MEFs: mouse embryonic fibroblasts; MTOR: mechanistic target of rapamycin kinase; PI3K: phosphoinositide 3-kinase; Rapa: rapamycin; Sert: sertraline; RPS6KB1: ribosomal protein S6 kinase B1; SQSTM1/p62: sequestosome 1; SLC6A4/SERT1: solute carrier family 6 member 4; TFEB: transcription factor EB; VDAC1: voltage dependent anion channel 1; WT: wild-type; WM: wortmannin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2783-2799
Number of pages17
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This This work was partly supported by grants from the National Research Foundation of Korea and was funded by the government of the Republic of Korea (MSIP; 2015K1A1A2028365, 2016K2A9A1A03904900, 2018M3A9C4076477) and the Brain Korea 21 Plus Project of the Republic of Korea and ICONS (Institute of Convergence Science), Yonsei University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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