The exocyst complex controls multiple events in the pathway of regulated exocytosis

  1. Fundación Instituto Leloir, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  2. Fundación Instituto Leloir


  • Reviewing Editor
    Benjamin Glick
    The University of Chicago, Chicago, United States of America
  • Senior Editor
    Sofia Araújo
    University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

Reviewer #1 (Public Review):

Suarez-Freire et al. analyzed here the function of the exocyst complex in the secretion of the glue proteins by the salivary glands of the Drosophila larva. This is a widely used, genetically accessible system in which the formation, maturation and precisely timed exocytosis of the glue secretory granules can be beautifully imaged. Using RNAi, the authors show that all units of the exocyst complex are required for exocytosis. They show that not just granule fusion with the plasma membrane is affected (canonical role), but also, with different penetrance, that glue protein is retained in the ER, secretory granules fail to fuse homo-typically or fail to acquire maturation features. The authors document these phenotypes and postulate specific roles for the exocyst in these additional processes to explain them: exocyst as an ER-Golgi tether and exocyst as a granule-granule tether. However, the evidence for these highly novel, potentially interesting roles would need to be more compelling to support direct involvement. For instance, the localization of exocyst to Golgi or to granule-granule contact sites does not seem substantial. Instead, it is possible that defects in Golgi traffic and granule homotypic fusion are not due to direct involvement of the exocyst in these processes, but secondary to a defect in canonical exocyst roles at the plasma membrane. A block in the last step of glue exocytosis could perhaps propagate backward in the secretory pathway to disrupt Golgi complexes or cause poor cellular health due to loss of cell polarity or autophagy. In the absence of stronger evidence for these other exocyst roles, I would suggest focusing the study on the canonical role (interesting, as it was previously reported that Drosophila exocyst had no function in the salivary gland and limited function elsewhere [DOI: 10.1034/j.1600-0854.2002.31206.x]), and leave the alternative roles for discussion and deeper study in the future.

Reviewer #2 (Public Review):

The manuscript from Wappner and Melani labs claims a novel for the exocyst subunits in multiple aspects of secretory granule exocytosis. This an intriguing paper that suggests multiple roles of the exocyst in granule maturation and fusion with roles at the ER/Golgi interface, TGN, and granule homotypic fusion.

A key strength is the breadth of the assays and study of all 8 exocyst subunits in a powerful model system (fly larvae). Many of the assays are quantitated and roles of the exocyst in early phases of granule biogenesis have not been ascribed.

However there are several weaknesses, both in terms of experimental controls, concrete statements about the granules (better resolution), and making a clear conceptual framework.

Namely, why do KD of different exocysts have different effects on presumed granule formation? Why does just overexpression of a single subunit (Sec15) induce granule fusion? While the paper is fascinating, the major comments need to be addressed to really be able to make better sense of this work, which at present is hard to disentangle direct vs. secondary effects, especially as much of the TGN seems to be altered in the KDs. The authors conveniently ascribe many of the results to the holocomplex, but their own data (Fig. 4 and Fig. 6) are at odds with this.

Major Comments:

1. Resolution not sufficient. Identification of "mature secretory granules" (MSG) in Fig. 3 is based on low-resolution images in which the MSG are not clearly seen (see control in Fig. 3A) and rather appear as a diffuse haze, and not as clear granules. There may be granules here, but as shown it is not clear. Thus it would be helpful to acquire images at higher resolution (at the diffraction limit, or higher) to see and count the MSG. (Note: the authors are not clear on which objective was used. The 20x/0.8 NA or 63x/1.4 NA? Maybe the air objective as the resolution appears poor). They need to prove that the diffuse Sgs3-GFP haze is indeed due to MSG. Related it is unclear what are the granule structures that correspond to Immature secretory granules (ISG) and cells with mesh-like structures (MLS)? Similarly, Sgs3 images of KD of 8 exocyst subunits were interpreted to be identical, in Fig. 4, but the resolution is poor.

2. Explanation of variability of exocyst KD on the appearance of MSG. What is remarkable is a highly variable effect of different subunit KD on the percentage of cells with MLS (Fig. 4C). Controls = 100 %, Exo70=~75% (at 19 deg), Sec3 = ~30%, Sec10 = 0%, Exo84 = 100% ... This is interesting for the functional exocyst is an octameric holocomples, thus why the huge subunit variability in the phenotypes? The trivial explanation is either: i) variable exocyst subunit KD (not shown) or ii) variability between experiments (no error bars are shown). Both should be addressed by quantification of the KD of different proteins and secondly by replicating the experiments. If their data holds up then the underlying mechanism here needs to be considered. (Note: there is some precedent from the autophagy field of differential exocyst effects).

3. In the salivary glands the authors state that the exocyst is needed for Sgs3-GFP exit from the ER. First, Pearson's coefficient should be shown so as to quantitate the degree of ER localizations of all KDs. Second, there should be some rescue performed (if possible) to support specificity. Third, importantly other proteins that should traffic to the PM need to be shown to traffic normally so as to rule out a non-specific effect.

4. Golgi: It is unclear from their model (Fig. 5) why after exocyst KD of Sec15 the cis-Golgi is more preserved than the TGN, which appears as large vacuoles. This is not quantitated and not shown for the 8 subunits.

5. Acute/Chronic control: It would be nice to acutely block the exocyst so as to better distinguish if the effects observed are primary or secondary effects (e.g. on a recycling pathway).

6. Higher Resolution imaging (EM or super-resolution) - this would be nice to better understand the morphological interpretations.

7. Granule homotypic fusion. Strangely over-expression of just one subunit, Sec15-GFP, made giant secretory granules (SG) that were over 8 microns big! Why is that, especially if normally the exocyst is normally a holocomplex. Was this an effect that was specific to Sec15 or all exocyst subunits? Is the Sec15 level rate limiting in these cells? It may be that a subcomplex of Sec15/10 plays earlier roles, but in any case this needs to be addressed across all (or many) of the exocyst subcomplex members.

In summary, there are clearly striking effects on secretory granule biogenesis by dysfunction of the exocyst, however right now it is hard to disentangle effects on ERGolgi traffic, loss of the TGN, and a problem in maturation or fusion of granules. It is also confusing if the entire exocyst holocomplex or subcomplex plays a key role.

Reviewer #3 (Public Review):

Freire and co-authors examine the role of the exocyst complex during the formation and secretion of mucins from secretory granules in the larval salivary gland of Drosophila melanogaster. Using transgenic lines with a tagged Sgs3 mucin the authors KD expression of exocyst subunit members and observe a defect in secretory granules with a heterogeneity of phenotypes. By carefully controlling RNAi expression using a Gal4-based system the authors can KD exocyst subunit expression to varying degrees. The authors find that the stronger the inhibition of expression of exocyst the earlier in the secretory pathway the defect. The manuscript is well written, the model system is physiological, and the techniques are innovative.

My major concern is that the evidence underlying the fundamental claim of the manuscript that "the exocyst complex participates" in multiple secretory processes lacks direct evidence. It is clear from multiple lines of evidence, which are discussed by the authors, that exocyst is essential for an array of exocytic events. The fundamental concern is that loss of homeostasis on the plasma membrane proteome and lipidome might have severe pleiotropic effects on the cell. Indeed exocyst is essential, even in tissue culture conditions, and loss is lethal. Therefore, is an alternative explanation not that they are observing varying degrees of pleiotropic defect on the secretory pathway? Perhaps the authors have more evidence that exocyst is important for homeotypic fusion of the SGs, as supported by the localisation of Sec15 on the fusion sites.

The second question that I think is important to address is, what exactly do the varying RNAi levels correspond to in terms of experiments, and have these been validated? Due to the fundamental claim being that the severity of the phenotype being correlated with the level of KD, I think validation of this model is absolutely essential.

  1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  2. Wellcome Trust
  3. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
  4. Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation