Lipophagy: connecting autophagy and lipid metabolism

Int J Cell Biol. 2012;2012:282041. doi: 10.1155/2012/282041. Epub 2012 Mar 28.


Lipid droplets (LDs), initially considered "inert" lipid deposits, have gained during the last decade the classification of cytosolic organelles due to their defined composition and the multiplicity of specific cellular functions in which they are involved. The classification of LD as organelles brings along the need for their regulated turnover and recent findings support the direct contribution of autophagy to this turnover through a process now described as lipophagy. This paper focuses on the characteristics of this new type of selective autophagy and the cellular consequences of the mobilization of intracellular lipids through this process. Lipophagy impacts the cellular energetic balance directly, through lipid breakdown and, indirectly, by regulating food intake. Defective lipophagy has been already linked to important metabolic disorders such as fatty liver, obesity and atherosclerosis, and the age-dependent decrease in autophagy could underline the basis for the metabolic syndrome of aging.