Recent insights into cell death and autophagy

FEBS J. 2015 Nov;282(22):4279-88. doi: 10.1111/febs.13515. Epub 2015 Oct 1.


Macroautophagy (hereafter autophagy) is an evolutionarily-ancient mechanism by which cellular material is delivered to lysosomes for degradation. Autophagy and cell death are intimately linked. For example, both processes often use the same molecular machinery and recent work suggests that autophagy has great influence over a cell's decision to live or die. However, this decision-making is complicated by the fact that the role of autophagy in determining whether a cell should live or die goes both ways: autophagy inhibition can result in more or less cell death depending on the death stimulus, cell type or context. Autophagy may also differentially affect different types of cell death. In the present review, we discuss the recent literature that helps make sense of this apparently inconsistent role of autophagy in influencing a cell to live or die.

Keywords: BH3 only proteins; FAP-1; MOMP; PUMA; apoptosis; autophagy; caspases; macroautophagy; necroptosis; necrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Necrosis
  • Receptor-Interacting Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / physiology
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type I / physiology
  • ras Proteins / physiology


  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type I
  • RIPK1 protein, human
  • RIPK3 protein, human
  • Receptor-Interacting Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • ras Proteins