Autophagy is an intracellular degradation system that breaks down damaged organelles or damaged proteins using intracellular lysosomes. Recent studies have also revealed that various forms of selective autophagy play specific physiological roles under different cellular conditions. Lipid droplets, which are mainly found in adipocytes and hepatocytes, are dynamic organelles that store triglycerides and are critical to health. Lipophagy is a type of selective autophagy that targets lipid droplets and is an essential mechanism for maintaining homeostasis of lipid droplets. However, while processes that regulate lipid droplets such as lipolysis and lipogenesis are relatively well known, the major factors that control lipophagy remain largely unknown. This review introduces the underlying mechanism by which lipophagy is induced and regulated, and the current findings on the major roles of lipophagy in physiological and pathological status. These studies will provide basic insights into the function of lipophagy and may be useful for the development of new therapies for lipophagy dysfunction-related diseases.
Keywords: adipose; lipid droplets; lipophagy; liver; metabolic disorders; selective autophagy.