Fatty acids are an important cellular energy source under starvation conditions. However, excessive free fatty acids (FFAs) in the cytoplasm cause lipotoxicity. Therefore, it is important to understand the mechanisms by which cells mobilize lipids and maintain a homeostatic level of fatty acids. Recent evidence suggests that cells can break down lipid droplets (LDs), the intracellular organelles that store neutral lipids, via PNPLA2/adipose triglyceride lipase and a selective type of macroautophagy/autophagy termed lipophagy, to release FFAs under starvation conditions. FFAs generated from LD catabolism are either transported to mitochondria for β-oxidation or converted back to LDs. The biogenesis of LDs under starvation conditions is mediated by autophagic degradation of membranous organelles and requires diacylglycerol O-acyltransferase 1, which serves as an adaptive cellular protective mechanism against lipotoxicity.
Keywords: autophagy; lipid droplet; lipophagy; lipotoxicity; starvation.