Autophagy in health and disease: A comprehensive review

Biomed Pharmacother. 2018 Aug:104:485-495. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2018.05.007. Epub 2018 May 25.


Autophagy, a conserved catabolic process, plays an immensely significant role in a variety of diseases. However, whether it imparts a protective function in diseases remains debatable. During aging, autophagy gradually subsides, manifested by the reduced formation of autophagic vacuoles and improper fusion of these vacuoles with the lysosomes. Similarly, in neurodegenerative disorders, accumulation of tau and synuclein proteins has been attributed to the decline in the autophagic removal of proteins. Equivalently, lysosomal disorders show an impairment of the autophagic process leading to the accumulation of lipid molecules within lysosomes. On the other hand, activation of the autophagic pathway has also proved beneficial in evading various foreign pathogens, thereby contributing to the innate immunity. In the context of cancer, autophagy has shown to play a puzzling role where it serves as a tumor suppressor during initial stages but later protects the tumor cells from the immune system defense mechanisms. Similarly, muscular and heart disorders have been shown to be positively and negatively regulated by autophagy, respectively. In the present review, we, therefore, present a comprehensive review on the role of autophagy in various diseases and their corresponding outcomes.

Keywords: Aging; Autophagy; Cancer; Diseases; Immunity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lysosomes / pathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology*