Methods for monitoring autophagy

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2004 Dec;36(12):2491-502. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2004.02.005.


Autophagy is an intracellular bulk degradation system that is found ubiquitously in eukaryotes. Autophagy is responsible for the degradation of most long-lived proteins and some organelles. Cytoplasmic constituents, including organelles, are sequestered into double-membraned autophagosomes, which subsequently fuse with lysosomes where their contents are degraded. This system has been implicated in various physiological processes including protein and organelle turnover, the starvation response, cellular differentiation, cell death, and pathogenesis. However, methods for monitoring autophagy have been very limited and unsatisfactory. The most standard method is conventional electron microscopy. In addition, some biochemical methods have been utilized to measure autophagic activity. Recently, the molecular basis of autophagosome formation has been extensively studied using yeast cells; these studies have provided useful marker proteins for autophagosomes. Importantly, most of these proteins are conserved in mammals. Using these probes, we can now specifically monitor autophagic activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • Biomarkers
  • Cells / ultrastructure*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Humans
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Physiology / methods
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Biomarkers
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins