Single celled eukaryotes utilize autophagy (or self-consumption) to adapt to fluctuating energy sources in the environment. The identification in multicellular organisms of orthologs of autophagy-related yeast genes has led to some of the major advances in the molecular dissection of the pathway in the last decade. In higher eukaryotes, autophagy is much more than a 'stress response' pathway. The complexity of multicellular systems calls for greater sophistication and coordination not only in regulating the stress response but also in sustaining normal physiological functions and a homeostatic environment in the whole organism. The review series on 'Autophagy in Higher Eukaryotes - a matter of survival or death' in the current issue comprises a variety of perspectives on the role of autophagy in cell growth, survival and death, in neurodegeneration, tumor suppression and tumor progression. For example, Høyer-Hansen and Jäättellä cogitate on the emergence of autophagy as a target in cancer therapy. In addition, Sanjuan and Green examine its role in the defense against microbial pathogens and Sachdeva and Thompson offer an intriguing look at autophagy in the context of circadian clocks and diurnal rhythms. Presented below are some of the salient points from these perspectives.
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- BH3 domain
- Diurnal rhythms
- Host defense
- Tumor suppression