There have been multiple lines of evidence suggesting that autophagy selectively targets signalling proteins and regulates cancer cell signalling in addition to bulk clearance of long-lived proteins and organelles. Protein degradation through autophagy requires receptor protein LC3B to sequester the substrates into the autophagosome. In the present study, we screened LC3B (light-chain 3B)-binding partners and identified autophagic substrates in cancer cells. With lung cancer NCI-H1975 and oesophageal cancer KYSE30 cell lines as models, we found that VPRBP (viral protein R-binding protein) was a novel LC3B-binding protein through GST (glutathione transferase)–LC3B pull-down combined with LC–MS/MS (liquid chromatography–tandem MS) methods. Co-immunoprecipitation assay showed that VPRBP–LC3/p62 were in the same protein complex as the two cell lines. Induction of autophagy led to a down-regulation of VPRPB, which could be rescued by the inhibition of autophagy degradation by BFA1 (bafilomycin A1) and by the disruption of autophagy through ATG5-knockdown. We also found that induction of autophagy promotes VPRBP–LC3/p62 interaction. Immunohistochemical examination of human NSCLC (non-small cell lung cancer) tissues showed that VPRBP was positively correlated with p62 and negatively correlated with LC3B. Moreover, p62 and VPRBP were associated with poor prognosis in lung ADC (adenocarcinoma) (p62, P=0.019; VPRBP, P=0.005). Patients with low expression of both p62 and VPRBP showed the best prognosis.

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