Published online Dec 26, 2016. doi: 10.4252/wjsc.v8.i12.396
Peer-review started: June 3, 2016
First decision: July 5, 2016
Revised: July 26, 2016
Accepted: September 21, 2016
Article in press: September 22, 2016
Published online: December 26, 2016
Autophagy in eukaryotic cells is a constitutive process and functions as a homeostatic mechanism; it is upregulated in response to specific stress stimuli such as starvation, hypoxia and as oxidative stress. In addition to playing a crucial role in adaptive responses to different stimuli, autophagy is also required for intracellular quality control. This second aspect is important to prevent the activation of pathological processes. Autophagy also plays a central role in cellular development and differentiation because it is involved in the regulation of energetic balance. This final aspect is critical for maintaining proper bone and muscle function as well as to prevent any pathological changes. Therefore, identifying new molecular targets involved in autophagy is critical to assure a good quality of life.
Core tip: Autophagy is a major catabolic process in eukaryotic cells in which damaged macromolecules and organelles are degraded and recycled. Several studies have demonstrated its crucial role in bone and muscle cell homeostasis. Deficiency or dysfunction in autophagy can result in pathological conditions such as osteoporosis and sarcopenia, which are associated with ageing. It is important to understand the role of the macromolecules involved in autophagy to devise how to counteract its decline and to hinder irreversible cell damage.