Autophagy meaning 'self-eating' in Greek, is a large-scale mechanism of intracellular degradation that seeks to maintain homeostasis in cells of all eukaryotes, from yeast to humans. Over the past several decades, autophagy research has actively proceeded both at home and abroad. As a result, studies have reported the physiological role of autophagy in different organs of mammals and of the role that impairment of its activation plays in the development of age-related diseases, abnormal glucose-lipid metabolism, and neurodegenerative disorders. Currently, new therapies targeting the regulation of activation of autophagy are anticipated, and research is continuing. In recent years, the role of autophagy in the kidneys has gradually been elucidated, and reports are indicating an association between autophagy and the development of various kidney diseases. This paper reviews the molecular mechanisms regulating autophagy and discusses new findings from autophagy research on the kidney and issues that have yet to be resolved.