Autophagy: a potential therapeutic target in lung diseases.
Macroautophagy (hereafter referred to as autophagy) is an evolutionally conserved intracellular process to maintain cellular homeostasis by facilitating the turnover of protein aggregates, cellular debris, and damaged organelles. During autophagy, cytosolic constituents are engulfed into double-membrane-bound vesicles called "autophagosomes," which are subsequently delivered to the lysosome for degradation. Accumulated evidence suggests that autophagy is critically involved not only in the basal physiological states but also in the pathogenesis of various human diseases. Interestingly, a diverse variety of clinically approved drugs modulate autophagy to varying extents, although they are not currently utilized for the therapeutic purpose of manipulating autophagy. In this review, we highlight the functional roles of autophagy in lung diseases with focus on the recent progress of the potential therapeutic use of autophagy-modifying drugs in clinical medicine. The purpose of this review is to discuss the merits, and the pitfalls, of modulating autophagy as a therapeutic strategy in lung diseases.