All cellular proteins undergo continuous synthesis and degradation. This permanent renewal is necessary to maintain a functional proteome and to allow rapid changes in levels of specific proteins with regulatory purposes. Although for a long time lysosomes were considered unable to contribute to the selective degradation of individual proteins, the discovery of chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA) changed this notion. Here, we review the characteristics that set CMA apart from other types of lysosomal degradation and the subset of molecules that confer cells the capability to identify individual cytosolic proteins and direct them across the lysosomal membrane for degradation.
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