The term autophagy refers to the engulfment and degradation of cytoplasmic components within the lysosome. This process can benefit cells and organisms by removing damaged, superfluous, or harmful cellular components, and by generating a supply of recycled macromolecules that can support biosynthesis or energy production. Recent interest in autophagy has been driven by its potential role in several disease-related phenomena including neurodegeneration, cancer, immunity and aging. Drosophila provides a valuable animal model context for these studies, and work in this system has also begun to identify novel developmental and physiological roles of autophagy. Here, we provide an overview of methods for monitoring autophagy in Drosophila, with a special emphasis on the larval fat body. These methods can be used to investigate whether observed vesicles are of autophagic origin, to determine a relative rate of autophagic degradation, and to identify specific step(s) in the autophagic process in which a given gene functions.
- Fat body