Autophagy is a lysosomal/vacuolar delivery system that degrades cytoplasmic material. During autophagy, autophagosomes deliver cellular components to the vacuole, resulting in the release of a cargo-containing autophagic body (AB) into the vacuole. AB membranes must be disrupted for degradation of cargo to occur. The lipase Atg15 and vacuolar proteases Pep4 and Prb1 are known to be necessary for this disruption and cargo degradation, but the mechanistic underpinnings remain unclear. In this study, we establish a system to detect lipase activity in the vacuole and show that Atg15 is the sole vacuolar phospholipase. Pep4 and Prb1 are required for the activation of Atg15 lipase function, which occurs following delivery of Atg15 to the vacuole by the MVB pathway. In vitro experiments reveal that Atg15 is a phospholipase B of broad substrate specificity that is likely implicated in the disruption of a range of membranes. Further, we use isolated ABs to demonstrate that Atg15 alone is able to disrupt AB membranes.

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