Autophagy is a catabolic pathway that contributes to renewing the cell machinery by eliminating different cell components, including proteins with defects in their conformation, such as lipid droplets. By replacing damaged structures, autophagy contributes to the quality control of cellular compartments essential to the cell, such as the mitochondrion, in a process known as mitophagy, in which nonfunctional mitochondria are broken down.
Given the essential role of autophagy in the regulation of multiple cell functions, abnormal autophagy, whether due to excess or deficit, can play a key role in neurodegenerative processes, metabolic diseases, the immune response, and the development of cancer. Autophagy is a multifunctional process that involves different cell structures, among which lysosomes play an essential role, because their fusion with autophagosomes loaded with cell remains are digested inside by hydrolytic enzymes.
Since they were first identified in the 1960s by Christian DeDube, who coined the term autophagy (from the Greek autos and phagein), interest in autophagy has grown exponentially in recent years, culminating in 2016, when Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine for identifying in yeast the genes responsible for regulating autophagy.
This review published in Autophagy involved the participation of five IDIBAPS researchers: Carmen García-Ruiz, Ana Moles and José C Fernández-Checa, of the IDIBAPS-IIBB-CSIC Mitochondrial regulation of cell death and steatohepatitis group, led by Fernández-Checa; Anna Colell, of the IDIBAPS-IIBB-CSIC Neurobiology group, led by Ramon Trullàs; and Virginia Hernández-Gea, of the Regulation of liver microcirculation in cirrhosis and hepatic vascular diseases group, led by Juan Carlos García Pagán
The researchers worked together to draw up the international guidelines on autophagy through their contributions on the effect of cholesterol on mitophagy and thus on quality control in the mitochondrion, and its impact on metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases and hepatotoxicity.
Guidelines for the use and interpretation of assays for monitoring autophagy (4th edition). Daniel J. Klionsky, Amal Kamal Abdel-Aziz, Sara Abdelfatah, Mahmoud Abdellatif, Asghar Abdoli, Steffen Abel, et al. Autophagy 2021. doi.org/10.1080/15548627.2020.1797280