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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2010 Sep;21(7):683-90. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2010.03.002. Epub 2010 Mar 17.

Physiological role of autophagy as an intracellular recycling system: with an emphasis on nutrient metabolism.

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Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, 1-5-45 Yushima, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8519, Japan.


Autophagy is a major intracellular degradation system in which the cytoplasmic contents are degraded in the lysosome. Its fundamental and evolutionarily conserved role is adaptation to starvation. Recent studies using autophagy-defective mutants of various organisms including mammals have indeed demonstrated the importance of autophagy during starvation; however, the exact mechanism underlying this beneficial effect remains unclear. In addition, it is now apparent that autophagy is also important for cellular homeostasis even under non-starvation conditions, and both non-selective and selective types of autophagy appear to be critical for this function. Here, we discuss the role of this catabolic pathway in recycling intracellular components, with particular reference to nutrient metabolism.

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