Mechanisms governing autophagosome biogenesis

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2020 Aug;21(8):439-458. doi: 10.1038/s41580-020-0241-0. Epub 2020 May 5.


Autophagosomes are double-membrane vesicles newly formed during autophagy to engulf a wide range of intracellular material and transport this autophagic cargo to lysosomes (or vacuoles in yeasts and plants) for subsequent degradation. Autophagosome biogenesis responds to a plethora of signals and involves unique and dynamic membrane processes. Autophagy is an important cellular mechanism allowing the cell to meet various demands, and its disruption compromises homeostasis and leads to various diseases, including metabolic disorders, neurodegeneration and cancer. Thus, not surprisingly, the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms governing autophagosome biogenesis has attracted considerable interest. Key molecules and organelles involved in autophagosome biogenesis, including autophagy-related (ATG) proteins and the endoplasmic reticulum, have been discovered, and their roles and relationships have been investigated intensely. However, several fundamental questions, such as what supplies membranes/lipids to build the autophagosome and how the membrane nucleates, expands, bends into a spherical shape and finally closes, have proven difficult to address. Nonetheless, owing to recent studies with new approaches and technologies, we have begun to unveil the mechanisms underlying these processes on a molecular level. We now know that autophagosome biogenesis is a highly complex process, in which multiple proteins and lipids from various membrane sources, supported by the formation of membrane contact sites, cooperate with biophysical phenomena, including membrane shaping and liquid-liquid phase separation, to ensure seamless segregation of the autophagic cargo. Together, these studies pave the way to obtaining a holistic view of autophagosome biogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagosomes / metabolism*
  • Autophagosomes / physiology*
  • Autophagy
  • Autophagy-Related Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lysosomes / metabolism
  • Macroautophagy
  • Protein Transport


  • Autophagy-Related Proteins