The impact of autophagy on cell death modalities
Autophagy represents a homeostatic cellular mechanism for the turnover of organelles and proteins, through a lysosome-dependent degradation pathway. During starvation, autophagy facilitates cell survival through the recycling of metabolic precursors. Additionally, autophagy can modulate other vital processes such as programmed cell death (e.g., apoptosis), inflammation, and adaptive immune mechanisms and thereby influence disease pathogenesis. Selective pathways can target distinct cargoes (e.g., mitochondria and proteins) for autophagic degradation. At present, the causal relationship between autophagy and various forms of regulated or nonregulated cell death remains unclear. Autophagy can occur in association with necrosis-like cell death triggered by caspase inhibition. Autophagy and apoptosis have been shown to be coincident or antagonistic, depending on experimental context, and share cross-talk between signal transduction elements. Autophagy may modulate the outcome of other regulated forms of cell death such as necroptosis. Recent advances suggest that autophagy can dampen inflammatory responses, including inflammasome-dependent caspase-1 activation and maturation of proinflammatory cytokines. Autophagy may also act as regulator of caspase-1 dependent cell death (pyroptosis). Strategies aimed at modulating autophagy may lead to therapeutic interventions for diseases in which apoptosis or other forms of regulated cell death may play a cardinal role.