Macroautophagy is a vacuolar, self-digesting mechanism responsible for the removal of long-lived proteins and damaged organelles by the lysosome. The discovery of the ATG genes has provided key information about the formation of the autophagosome, and about the role of macroautophagy in allowing cells to survive during nutrient depletion and/or in the absence of growth factors. Two connected signaling pathways encompassing class-I phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase and (mammalian) target of rapamycin play a central role in controlling macroautophagy in response to starvation. However, a considerable body of literature reports that macroautophagy is also a cell death mechanism that can occur either in the absence of detectable signs of apoptosis (via autophagic cell death) or concomitantly with apoptosis. Macroautophagy is activated by signaling pathways that also control apoptosis. The aim of this review is to discuss the signaling pathways that control macroautophagy during cell survival and cell death.