The lysosome: from waste bag to potential therapeutic target

J Mol Cell Biol. 2013 Aug;5(4):214-26. doi: 10.1093/jmcb/mjt022.


Lysosomes are ubiquitous membrane-bound intracellular organelles with an acidic interior. They are central for degradation and recycling of macromolecules delivered by endocytosis, phagocytosis, and autophagy. In contrast to the rather simplified view of lysosomes as waste bags, nowadays lysosomes are recognized as advanced organelles involved in many cellular processes and are considered crucial regulators of cell homeostasis. The function of lysosomes is critically dependent on soluble lysosomal hydrolases (e.g. cathepsins) as well as lysosomal membrane proteins (e.g. lysosome-associated membrane proteins). This review focuses on lysosomal involvement in digestion of intra- and extracellular material, plasma membrane repair, cholesterol homeostasis, and cell death. Regulation of lysosomal biogenesis and function via the transcription factor EB (TFEB) will also be discussed. In addition, lysosomal contribution to diseases, including lysosomal storage disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases, is presented.

Keywords: apoptosis; cholesterol; degradation; exocytosis; lysosomal membrane permeabilization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Endocytosis
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Lysosomal Storage Diseases / metabolism
  • Lysosomes / metabolism
  • Lysosomes / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Proteins / physiology


  • Proteins
  • lysosomal proteins