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Papers of the Week

Papers: 30 Apr 2022 - 6 May 2022

Animal Studies, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2022 Apr 26

Mol Cell Neurosci

Elevated ATG13 in serum of patients with ME/CFS stimulates oxidative stress response in microglial cells via activation of receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE).


Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), is a multisystem illness characterized by extreme muscle fatigue associated with pain, neurocognitive impairment, and chronic inflammation. Despite intense investigation, the molecular mechanism of this disease is still unknown. Here we demonstrate that autophagy-related protein ATG13 is strongly upregulated in the serum of ME/CFS patients, indicative of impairment in the metabolic events of autophagy. A Thioflavin T-based protein aggregation assay, array screening for autophagy-related factors, densitometric analyses, and confirmation with ELISA revealed that the level of ATG13 was strongly elevated in serum samples of ME/CFS patients compared to age-matched controls. Moreover, our microglia-based oxidative stress response experiments indicated that serum samples of ME/CFS patients evoke the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and nitric oxide in human HMC3 microglial cells, whereas neutralization of ATG13 strongly diminishes the production of ROS and NO, suggesting that ATG13 plays a role in the observed stress response in microglial cells. Finally, an in vitro ligand binding assay provided evidence that ATG13 employs the Receptor for Advanced Glycation End-products (RAGE) to stimulate ROS in microglial cells. Collectively, our results suggest that an impairment of autophagy following the release of ATG13 into serum could be a pathological signal in ME/CFS.