Autophagy is a conserved process that uses double-membrane vesicles to deliver cytoplasmic contents to lysosomes for degradation. Although autophagy may impact many facets of human biology and disease, in this review we focus on the ability of autophagy to protect against certain neurodegenerative and infectious diseases. Autophagy enhances the clearance of toxic, cytoplasmic, aggregate-prone proteins and infectious agents. The beneficial roles of autophagy can now be extended to supporting cell survival and regulating inflammation. Autophagic control of inflammation is one area where autophagy may have similar benefits for both infectious and neurodegenerative diseases beyond direct removal of the pathogenic agents. Preclinical data supporting the potential therapeutic utility of autophagy modulation in such conditions is accumulating.
© 2015 Rubinsztein et al.