Lipids in autophagy: constituents, signaling molecules and cargo with relevance to disease

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Aug;1821(8):1133-45. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2012.01.001. Epub 2012 Jan 14.


The balance between protein and lipid biosynthesis and their eventual degradation is a critical component of cellular health. Autophagy, the catabolic process by which cytoplasmic material becomes degraded in lysosomes, can be induced by various physiological stimuli to maintain cellular homeostasis. Autophagy was for a long time considered a non-selective bulk process, but recent data have shown that unwanted components such as aberrant protein aggregates, dysfunctional organelles and invading pathogens can be selectively eliminated by autophagy. Recently, also intracellular lipid droplets were described as specific autophagic cargo, indicating that autophagy plays a role in lipid metabolism and storage (Singh et al., 2009 [1]). Moreover, over the past several years, it has become increasingly evident that lipids and lipid-modifying enzymes play important roles in the autophagy process itself, both at the level of regulation of autophagy and as membrane constituents required for formation of autophagic vesicles. In this review, we will discuss the interplay between lipids and autophagy, as well as the role of lipid-binding proteins in autophagy. We also comment on the possible implications of this mutual interaction in the context of disease. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Lipids and Vesicular Transport.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins / deficiency
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism Disorders / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Lysosomes / metabolism
  • Phagosomes / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins