Nature. 2023 May 24. doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-06090-9. Online ahead of print.
Membrane-shaping proteins characterized by reticulon homology domains play an important part in the dynamic remodelling of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). An example of such a protein is FAM134B, which can bind LC3 proteins and mediate the degradation of ER sheets through selective autophagy (ER-phagy)1. Mutations in FAM134B result in a neurodegenerative disorder in humans that mainly affects sensory and autonomic neurons2. Here we report that ARL6IP1, another ER-shaping protein that contains a reticulon homology domain and is associated with sensory loss3, interacts with FAM134B and participates in the formation of heteromeric multi-protein clusters required for ER-phagy. Moreover, ubiquitination of ARL6IP1 promotes this process. Accordingly, disruption of Arl6ip1 in mice causes an expansion of ER sheets in sensory neurons that degenerate over time. Primary cells obtained from Arl6ip1-deficient mice or from patients display incomplete budding of ER membranes and severe impairment of ER-phagy flux. Therefore, we propose that the clustering of ubiquitinated ER-shaping proteins facilitates the dynamic remodelling of the ER during ER-phagy and is important for neuronal maintenance.