Abstract

Selective autophagy has emerged as an important mechanism by which eukaryotic cells control the abundance of specific proteins. This mechanism relies on cargo recruitment to autophagosomes by receptors that bind to both the ubiquitin-like AUTOPHAGY8 (ATG8) protein through ATG8-interacting motifs (AIMs) and to the cargo to be degraded. In plants, two autophagy cargo receptors, ATG8-interacting protein 1 (ATI1) and 2 (ATI2), were identified early on, but their molecular properties remain poorly understood. Here, we show that ATI1 and ATI2 are transmembrane proteins with long N-terminal intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs). The N-terminal IDRs contain the functional AIMs, and we use nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to directly observe the disorder-order transition of the AIM upon ATG8 binding. Our analyses also show that the IDRs of ATI1 and ATI2 are not equivalent, because ATI2 has properties of a fully disordered polypeptide, while ATI1 has properties more consistent with a collapsed pre-molten globule-like conformation, possibly as a consequence of a higher content of π-orbital-containing amino acid residues. Finally, we show that a sizable fraction of ATI2, but not ATI1, is phosphorylated in planta.

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