Autophagy: a lysosomal degradation pathway with a central role in health and disease

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 Apr;1793(4):664-73. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamcr.2008.07.014. Epub 2008 Jul 28.


Autophagy delivers cytoplasmic material and organelles to lysosomes for degradation. The formation of autophagosomes is controlled by a specific set of autophagy genes called atg genes. The magnitude of autophagosome formation is tightly regulated by intracellular and extracellular amino acid concentrations and ATP levels via signaling pathways that include the nutrient sensing kinase TOR. Autophagy functions as a stress response that is upregulated by starvation, oxidative stress, or other harmful conditions. Remarkably, autophagy has been shown to possess important housekeeping and quality control functions that contribute to health and longevity. Autophagy plays a role in innate and adaptive immunity, programmed cell death, as well as prevention of cancer, neurodegeneration and aging. In addition, impaired autophagic degradation contributes to the pathogenesis of several human diseases including lysosomal storage disorders and muscle diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autophagy*
  • Disease*
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Lysosomes / metabolism*
  • Lysosomes / ultrastructure
  • Phagosomes / metabolism
  • Phagosomes / ultrastructure