Ian Ganley's Research Group

Google Scholar | Pubmed | Biography

Molecular analysis of autophagy

Our cells are constantly exposed to damaging stress from both external sources, such as UV rays, as well as internal sources, including free radicals produced by faulty mitochondria. Thankfully we have multiple ways to deal with this. One such protection mechanism is autophagy, an intracellular membrane-driven lysosomal degradation pathway. Autophagy protects cells by eliminating impaired and/or toxic components, which could lead to damage if left to persist. Because of this role, disruption of autophagy can have dire consequences and has been linked to many diseases including cancer, neurodegeneration and heart disease.

The goal of our research is to find ways to regulate this as yet poorly defined pathway so that autophagy can be used as a tool to treat disease. To do this, we need to identify physiological autophagy-inducing signalling pathways and determine how these signals trigger autophagosome formation. Towards this endeavor, we are focused on the ULK1 protein kinase, as this is critical for autophagy induction, yet how it does this is unclear.

Recently we developed novel ways to detect mitophagy, the autophagy of mitochondria, disruption of which is implicated in Parkinson’s disease. We have uncovered multiple instances of physiological mitophagy, for example in dopaminergic neurons within the midbrain, and our objectives are to resolve these mechanisms, delineate the relevant signalling pathways and determine how they relate to development and disease.

Clockwise from back left: Francois Singh,  Jin-Feng Zhao, Christina Vrahnas, Maria Zachari, Ian Ganley, Alice Nardin, Lea Wilhelm, Lambert Montava Garriga, Marianna Longo
Clockwise from back left: Francois Singh, Jin-Feng Zhao, Christina Vrahnas, Maria Zachari, Ian Ganley, Alice Nardin, Lea Wilhelm, Lambert Montava Garriga, Marianna Longo


Katharina Lorentzen | PhD Student
Sophie Barron | PhD Rotation Student
Zhiyuan Li | Postdoctoral Researcher
Marianna Longo | PhD Student
Alice Nardin | Postdoctoral Researcher
Philippa Rosewell | PhD Student
Francois Singh | Postdoctoral Researcher
Christina Vrahnas | Postdoctoral Researcher
Lea Wilhelm | Postdoctoral Researcher

Selected Publications

1   McWilliams, T. G., Prescott, A. R., Allen, G. F., Tamjar, J., Munson, M. J., Thomson, C., Muqit, M. M. and Ganley, I. (2016) mito-QC illuminates mitophagy and mitochondrial architecture in vivo. J Cell Biol 214 333-345
2   McWilliams TG, Prescott AR, Montava-Garriga L, Ball G, Singh F, Barini E, Muqit MMK, Brooks SP, Ganley IG (2018) Basal mitophagy occurs independently of PINK1 in mouse tissues of high metabolic demand. Cell Metab 27 439-449
3   Petherick, K. J., Conway, O. J., Mpamhanga, C., Osborne, S. A., Kamal, A., Saxty, B., Ganley, I. G. (2015) Pharmacological Inhibition of ULK1 Kinase Blocks Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR)-dependent Autophagy J Biol Chem 290 11376-11383
4   Munson, M. J., Allen, G. F., Toth, R., Campbell, D. G., Lucocq, J. M., Ganley, I. G. (2015) mTOR activates the VPS34-UVRAG complex to regulate autolysosomal tubulation and cell survival EMBO J 34 2272-2290
5   Bago, R., Malik, N., Munson, M. J., Prescott, A. R., Davies, P., Sommer, E., Shpiro, N., Ward, R., Cross, D., Ganley, I. G., Alessi, D. R. (2014) Characterization of VPS34-IN1, a selective inhibitor of Vps34, reveals that the phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate-binding SGK3 protein kinase is a downstream target of class III phosphoinositide 3-kinase Biochem J 463 413-427
6   Allen, G. F., Toth, R., James, J., Ganley, I. G. (2013) Loss of iron triggers PINK1/Parkin-independent mitophagy EMBO Rep 14 1127-1135