The protonophore CCCP interferes with lysosomal degradation of autophagic cargo in yeast and mammalian cells

Benjamin S. Padman, Markus Bach, Giuseppe Lucarelli, Mark Prescott, Georg Ramm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


Mitophagy is a selective pathway, which targets and delivers mitochondria to the lysosomes for degradation. Depolarization of mitochondria by the protonophore cccP is a strategy increasingly used to experimentally trigger not only mitophagy, but also bulk autophagy. Using live-cell fluorescence microscopy we found that treatment of heLa cells with cccP caused redistribution of mitochondrially targeted dyes, including DiOc6, TMRM, MTR, and MTG, from mitochondria to the cytosol, and subsequently to lysosomal compartments. Localization of mitochondrial dyes to lysosomal compartments was caused by retargeting of the dye, rather than delivery of mitochondrial components to the lysosome. We showed that cccP interfered with lysosomal function and autophagosomal degradation in both yeast and mammalian cells, inhibited starvation-induced mitophagy in mammalian cells, and blocked the induction of mitophagy in yeast cells. PARK2/Parkin-expressing mammalian cells treated with cccP have been reported to undergo high levels of mitophagy and clearance of all mitochondria during extensive treatment with cccP. Using correlative light and electron microscopy in PARK2-expressing heLa cells, we showed that mitochondrial remnants remained present in the cell after 24 h of cccP treatment, although they were no longer easily identifiable as such due to morphological alterations. Our results showed that cccP inhibits autophagy at both the initiation and lysosomal degradation stages. in addition, our data demonstrated that caution should be taken when using organelle-specific dyes in conjunction with strategies affecting membrane potential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1862-1875
Number of pages14
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


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