Autophagy constitutes a prominent mechanism through which eukaryotic cells preserve homeostasis in baseline conditions and in response to perturbations of the intracellular or extracellular microenvironment. Autophagic responses can be relatively non-selective or target a specific subcellular compartment. At least in part, this depends on the balance between the availability of autophagic substrates ("offer") and the cellular need of autophagic products or functions for adaptation ("demand"). Irrespective of cargo specificity, adaptive autophagy relies on a panel of sensors that detect potentially dangerous cues and convert them into signals that are ultimately relayed to the autophagic machinery. Here, we summarize the molecular systems through which specific subcellular compartments-including the nucleus, mitochondria, plasma membrane, reticular apparatus, and cytosol-convert homeostatic perturbations into an increased offer of autophagic substrates or an accrued cellular demand for autophagic products or functions.
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