Autophagy is a major pathway for degradation and recycling of cytoplasmic material, including individual proteins, aggregates, and entire organelles. Autophagic processes serve mainly survival functions in cellular homeostasis, stress adaptation and immune responses but can also have death-promoting activities in different eukaryotic organisms. In plants, the role of autophagy in the regulation of programmed cell death (PCD) remained elusive and a subject of debate. More recent evidence, however, has resulted in the consensus that autophagy can either promote or restrict different forms of PCD. Here, we present latest advances in understanding the molecular mechanisms and functions of plant autophagy and discuss their implications for life and death decisions in the context of developmental and pathogen-induced PCD.
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