The cardinal stages of macroautophagy are driven by core autophagy-related (ATG) proteins, whose ablation largely abolishes intracellular turnover. Disrupting ATG genes is paradigmatic of studying autophagy deficiency, yet emerging data suggest that ATG proteins have extensive biological importance beyond autophagic elimination. An important example is ATG7, an essential autophagy effector enzyme that in concert with other ATG proteins, also regulates immunity, cell death and protein secretion, and independently regulates the cell cycle and apoptosis. Recently, a direct association between ATG7 dysfunction and disease was established in patients with biallelic ATG7 variants and childhood-onset neuropathology. Moreover, a prodigious body of evidence supports a role for ATG7 in protecting against complex disease states in model organisms, although how dysfunctional ATG7 contributes to manifestation of these diseases, including cancer, neurodegeneration and infection, in humans remains unclear. Here, we systematically review the biological functions of ATG7, discussing the impact of its impairment on signalling pathways and human pathology. Future studies illuminating the molecular relationship between ATG7 dysfunction and disease will expedite therapies for disorders involving ATG7 deficiency and/or impaired autophagy.
Keywords: ATG7; autophagy; disease; neurodegeneration; therapeutics.
© 2021 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 license.