Autophagy is an important cellular mechanism for maintaining cellular homeostasis, and its impairment correlates highly with age and age-related diseases. Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells of the eye represent a crucial model for studying autophagy, as RPE functions and integrity are highly dependent on an efficient autophagic process. Cysteinyl leukotriene receptor 1 (CysLTR1) acts in immunoregulation and cellular stress responses and is a potential regulator of basal and adaptive autophagy. As basal autophagy is a dynamic process, the aim of this study was to define the role of CysLTR1 in autophagy regulation in a chronobiologic context using the ARPE-19 human RPE cell line.

Effects of CysLTR1 inhibition on basal autophagic activity were analyzed at inactive/low and high lysosomal degradation activity with the antagonists zafirlukast (ZTK) and montelukast (MTK) at a dosage of 100 nM for 3 hours. Abundances of the autophagy markers LC3-II and SQSTM1 and LC3B particles were analyzed in the absence and presence of lysosomal inhibitors using western blot analysis and immunofluorescence microscopy.

CysLTR1 antagonization revealed a biphasic effect of CysLTR1 on autophagosome formation and lysosomal degradation that depended on the autophagic activity of cells at treatment initiation. ZTK and MTK affected lysosomal degradation, but only ZTK regulated autophagosome formation. In addition, dexamethasone treatment and serum shock induced autophagy, which was repressed by CysLTR1 antagonization. As a newly identified autophagy modulator, CysLTR1 appears to be a key player in the chronobiological regulation of basal autophagy and adaptive autophagy in RPE cells.