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Protoplasma. 2012 Apr;249(2):285-99. doi: 10.1007/s00709-011-0296-z. Epub 2011 Jun 10.

Variations on a theme: plant autophagy in comparison to yeast and mammals.

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Department of Plant Sciences, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, 76100, Israel.


Autophagy is an evolutionary conserved process of bulk degradation and nutrient sequestration that occurs in all eukaryotic cells. Yet, in recent years, autophagy has also been shown to play a role in the specific degradation of individual proteins or protein aggregates as well as of damaged organelles. The process was initially discovered in yeast and has also been very well studied in mammals and, to a lesser extent, in plants. In this review, we summarize what is known regarding the various functions of autopahgy in plants but also attempt to address some specific issues concerning plant autophagy, such as the insufficient knowledge regarding autophagy in various plant species other than Arabidopsis, the fact that some genes belonging to the core autophagy machinery in various organisms are still missing in plants, the existence of autophagy multigene families in plants and the possible operation of selective autophagy in plants, a study that is still in its infancy. In addition, we point to plant-specific autophagy processes, such as the participation of autophagy during development and germination of the seed, a unique plant organ. Throughout this review, we demonstrate that the use of innovative bioinformatic resources, together with recent biological discoveries (such as the ATG8-interacting motif), should pave the way to a more comprehensive understanding of the multiple functions of plant autophagy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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