Cellular autophagy: surrender, avoidance and subversion by microorganisms

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2004 Apr;2(4):301-14. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro865.


Intracellular bacteria and viruses must survive the vigorous antimicrobial responses of their hosts to replicate successfully. The cellular process of autophagy — in which compartments bound by double membranes engulf portions of the cytosol and then mature to degrade their cytoplasmic contents — is likely to be one such host-cell response. Several lines of evidence show that both bacteria and viruses are vulnerable to autophagic destruction and that successful pathogens have evolved strategies to avoid autophagy, or to actively subvert its components, to promote their own replication. The molecular mechanisms of the avoidance and subversion of autophagy by microorganisms will be the subject of much future research, not only to study their roles in the replication of these microorganisms, but also because they will provide — as bacteria and viruses so often have — unique tools to study the cellular process itself.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Humans
  • Phagosomes / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Virus Physiological Phenomena*