Macroautophagy, an intracellular bulk degradation process and a typical form of autophagy in eukaryotes, is sensitive to physiological regulation, such as the supply and deprivation of nutrients. Microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3), a mammalian homologue of yeast Atg8, plays a critical role in macroautophagy formation and is considered a suitable marker for this process. In mammalian cells, there is a limitation for biochemical and morphological methods to monitor autophagy within a short period of time. During analysis of the subcellular distribution of LC3, we found that the cytosolic fraction contains not only a precursor form (LC3-I), but also an apparently active form, denoted as LC3-IIs. Both LC3-I and LC3-IIs in the cytosolic fraction, and thus the LC3-IIs/I ratio (designated the cytosolic LC3 ratio), were more responsive to amino acids than monitoring LC3-II or the LC3-II/I ratio in the total homogenate, and remarkably reflected the total proteolytic flux in fresh rat hepatocytes and the cultured H4-II-E cell line. Thus, in addition to representing a sensitive index of macroautophagy, examining the cytosolic LC3 ratio is an easy and quick quantitative method for monitoring the regulation of this process in hepatocytes and H4-II-E cells.