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Maintenance of cellular homeostasis depends upon a exquisitely regulated balance between the biosynthesis and the degradation (or catabolism) of macromolecules. This balance is controlled by regulatory mechanisms that respond to environmental signals. In eukaryotes, autophagy is one of the major pathways of cellular catabolism allowing degradation of macromolecules and organelles. This process involves the transport of proteins to the lysosomes and their degradation by hydrolases, such as lysosomal proteases (cathepsins). The function of this lysosomal degradation pathway, discovered several decades ago, was recently highlighted by generating mouse models invalidated for atg genes essential for autophagy. The characterization of systemic and tissue-specific knockout models of atg genes in mice led to an explosion of knowledge regarding about the functions of autophagy. Here we review the main advances in our understanding of the function of autophagy in mammalian development and differentiation.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





212 - 220