Stem cells have the ability to self-renew and differentiate into various cell types. Both cell-intrinsic and extrinsic factors may contribute to aging-related decline in stem cell function and loss of stemness. The maintenance of cellular homeostasis requires timely removal of toxic proteins and damaged organelles that accumulate with age or in pathological conditions. Autophagy is one of the main strategies to eliminate unwanted cytoplasmic materials thereby ultimately preventing cellular damage. Here, we shall discuss the accumulating evidence suggesting that autophagy plays a critical role in the homeostatic control of stem cell functions during aging, tissue regeneration, and cellular reprogramming.
Copyright © 2013 The Authors. Published by John Wiley and Sons, Ltd on behalf of EMBO.