A systems biology approach to learning autophagy

Autophagy. Jan-Mar 2006;2(1):12-23. doi: 10.4161/auto.2227. Epub 2006 Jan 10.


With its relevance to our understanding of eukaryotic cell function in the normal and disease state, autophagy is an important topic in modern cell biology; yet, few textbooks discuss autophagy beyond a two- or three-sentence summary. Here, we report an undergraduate/graduate class lesson for the in-depth presentation of autophagy using an active learning approach. By our method, students will work in small groups to solve problems and interpret an actual data set describing genes involved in autophagy. The problem-solving exercises and data set analysis will instill within the students a much greater understanding of the autophagy pathway than can be achieved by simple rote memorization of lecture materials; furthermore, the students will gain a general appreciation of the process by which data are interpreted and eventually formed into an understanding of a given pathway. As the data sets used in these class lessons are largely genomic and complementary in content, students will also understand first-hand the advantage of an integrative or systems biology study: No single data set can be used to define the pathway in full-the information from multiple complementary studies must be integrated in order to recapitulate our present understanding of the pathways mediating autophagy. In total, our teaching methodology offers an effective presentation of autophagy as well as a general template for the discussion of nearly any signaling pathway within the eukaryotic kingdom.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Autophagy*
  • Biology / education*
  • Education, Graduate
  • Systems Biology
  • Teaching*
  • Universities