Stress-primed secretory autophagy promotes extracellular BDNF maturation by enhancing MMP9 secretion

S. Martinelli*, E.A. Anderzhanova, T. Bajaj, S. Wiechmann, F. Dethloff, K. Weckmann, D.E. Heinz, T. Ebert, J. Hartmann, T.M. Geiger, M. Dongi, K. Hafner, M.L. Pohlmann, L. Jollans, A. Philipsen, S.V. Schmidt, U. Schmidt, G. Maccarrone, V. Stein, F. HauschC.W. Turck, M.V. Schmidt, A.K. Gellner, B. Kuster, N.C. Gassen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Glucocorticoids are associated with stress. Here, the authors show that high levels of glucocorticoid stress promote secretory autophagy of matrix metalloproteinase 9 via a stress responsive chaperone, increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor processing and potentially altering adult synaptic plasticity.The stress response is an essential mechanism for maintaining homeostasis, and its disruption is implicated in several psychiatric disorders. On the cellular level, stress activates, among other mechanisms, autophagy that regulates homeostasis through protein degradation and recycling. Secretory autophagy is a recently described pathway in which autophagosomes fuse with the plasma membrane rather than with lysosomes. Here, we demonstrate that glucocorticoid-mediated stress enhances secretory autophagy via the stress-responsive co-chaperone FK506-binding protein 51. We identify the matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP9) as one of the proteins secreted in response to stress. Using cellular assays and in vivo microdialysis, we further find that stress-enhanced MMP9 secretion increases the cleavage of pro-brain-derived neurotrophic factor (proBDNF) to its mature form (mBDNF). BDNF is essential for adult synaptic plasticity and its pathway is associated with major depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. These findings unravel a cellular stress adaptation mechanism that bears the potential of opening avenues for the understanding of the pathophysiology of stress-related disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4643
Number of pages17
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2021




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