Comparison of chloroquine-like molecules for lysosomal inhibition and measurement of autophagic flux in the brain

Célia Fourrier, Valerie Bryksin, Kathryn Hattersley, Leanne K. Hein, Julien Bensalem, Timothy J. Sargeant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Measurement of autophagic flux in vivo is critical to understand how autophagy can be used to combat disease. Neurodegenerative diseases have a special relationship with autophagy, which makes measurement of autophagy in the brain a significant research priority. Currently, measurement of autophagic flux is possible through use of transgenic constructs, or application of a lysosomal inhibitor such as chloroquine. Unfortunately, chloroquine is not useful for measuring autophagic flux in the brain and the use of transgenic animals necessitates cross-breeding of transgenic strains and maintenance of lines, which is costly. To find a drug that could block lysosomal function in the brain for the measurement of autophagic flux, we selected compounds from the literature that appeared to have similar properties to chloroquine and tested their ability to inhibit autophagic flux in cell culture and in mice. These chemicals included chloroquine, quinacrine, mefloquine, promazine and trifluoperazine. As expected, chloroquine blocked lysosomal degradation of the autophagic protein LC3B-II in cell culture. Quinacrine also inhibited autophagic flux in cell culture. Other compounds tested were not effective. When injected into mice, chloroquine caused accumulation of LC3B-II in heart tissue, and quinacrine was effective at blocking LC3B-II degradation in male, but not female skeletal muscle. None of the compounds tested were useful for measuring autophagic flux in the brain. During this study we also noted that the vehicle DMSO powerfully up-regulated LC3B-II abundance in tissues. This study shows that chloroquine and quinacrine can both be used to measure autophagic flux in cells, and in some peripheral tissues. However, measurement of flux in the brain using lysosomal inhibitors remains an unresolved research challenge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-113
Number of pages7
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Jan 2021


  • Autophagy
  • Brain
  • Chloroquine
  • LC3
  • Lysosome
  • Quinacrine

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