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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

All-you-can-eat: autophagy in neurodegeneration and neuroprotection

Philipp A Jaeger13 and Tony Wyss-Coray23*

Author Affiliations

1 Institut für Chemie und Biochemie, Freie Universität Berlin, Thielallee 63, Berlin, Germany

2 Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, VA Palo Alto Health Care System, 3801 Miranda Ave, Palo Alto, California, USA

3 Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, 300 Pasteur Ave, Stanford, California, USA

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Molecular Neurodegeneration 2009, 4:16  doi:10.1186/1750-1326-4-16

Published: 6 April 2009

Abstract

Autophagy is the major pathway involved in the degradation of proteins and organelles, cellular remodeling, and survival during nutrient starvation. Autophagosomal dysfunction has been implicated in an increasing number of diseases from cancer to bacterial and viral infections and more recently in neurodegeneration. While a decrease in autophagic activity appears to interfere with protein degradation and possibly organelle turnover, increased autophagy has been shown to facilitate the clearance of aggregation-prone proteins and promote neuronal survival in a number of disease models. On the other hand, too much autophagic activity can be detrimental as well and lead to cell death, suggesting the regulation of autophagy has an important role in cell fate decisions. An increasing number of model systems are now available to study the role of autophagy in the central nervous system and how it might be exploited to treat disease. We will review here the current knowledge of autophagy in the central nervous system and provide an overview of the various models that have been used to study acute and chronic neurodegeneration.