Macroautophagy is an intracellular degradation system for the majority of proteins and some organelles. The molecular mechanism of autophagy has been extensively studied using the yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, during these past 10 years. These studies suggested that the molecular machinery of autophagosome formation is well conserved from yeast to higher eukaryotes. Identification and characterization of the mammalian counterparts of the yeast autophagy proteins has facilitated our understanding of mammalian autophagy, particularly of autophagosome formation. These findings are now being applied to studies on the physiological roles of autophagy in mammals.