Regulation and role of autophagy in mammalian cells

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2004 Dec;36(12):2445-62. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2004.02.002.


The recent period has witnessed progress in the understanding of the lysosomal autophagic pathway. The discovery of a family of genes conserved from yeast to humans, and involved in the formation of autophagosomes, has unraveled new protein-conjugation systems and has shed light on the importance of autophagy in physiology and pathophysiology. The elucidation of the molecular control of autophagy will also lead to a better understanding of the role of autophagy during cell death. As a great number of extracellular stimuli (starvation, hormonal or therapeutic treatment) as well as intracellular stimuli (accumulation of misfolded proteins, invasion of microorganisms) is able to modulate the autophagic response, it is not surprising that several signaling pathways are involved in the control of autophagy. The mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway plays a major role in transmitting autophagic stimuli because of its ability to sense nutrient, metabolic and hormonal signals. In addition, autophagy, which is characterized by a flux of membrane from the formation of the autophagosome to the fusion with the lysosome, is regulated by GTPases, similarly to the vesicular transport along the exocytic/endocytic pathway. The aim of the present review is to give an overview of autophagy and to discuss its regulation by activators and effectors of mTOR and GTPases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mammals
  • Muscular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology
  • Protein Kinases / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases


  • Protein Kinases
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases