Autophagic cell death: the story of a misnomer

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2008 Dec;9(12):1004-10. doi: 10.1038/nrm2529. Epub 2008 Oct 30.


Dying cells often display a large-scale accumulation of autophagosomes and hence adopt a morphology called autophagic cell death. In many cases, it is agreed that this autophagic cell death is cell death with autophagy rather than cell death by autophagy. Here, we evaluate the accumulating body of literature that argues that cell death occurs by autophagy. We also list the caveats that must be considered when deciding whether or not autophagy is an important effector mechanism of cell death.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Autophagy / genetics
  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • Cell Death / genetics
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Lysosomes / genetics
  • Lysosomes / ultrastructure
  • Necrosis / pathology
  • Phagosomes / genetics
  • Phagosomes / ultrastructure
  • Terminology as Topic*