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Autophagy and cell growth – the yin and yang of nutrient responses
Thomas P. Neufeld


As a response to nutrient deprivation and other cell stresses, autophagy is often induced in the context of reduced or arrested cell growth. A plethora of signaling molecules and pathways have been shown to have opposing effects on cell growth and autophagy, and results of recent functional screens on a genomic scale support the idea that these processes might represent mutually exclusive cell fates. Understanding the ways in which autophagy and cell growth relate to one another is becoming increasingly important, as new roles for autophagy in tumorigenesis and other growth-related phenomena are uncovered. This Commentary highlights recent findings that link autophagy and cell growth, and explores the mechanisms underlying these connections and their implications for cell physiology and survival. Autophagy and cell growth can inhibit one another through a variety of direct and indirect mechanisms, and can be independently regulated by common signaling pathways. The central role of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway in regulating both autophagy and cell growth exemplifies one such mechanism. In addition, mTOR-independent signaling and other more direct connections between autophagy and cell growth will also be discussed.


  • This article is part of a Minifocus on Autophagy. For further reading, please see related articles: ‘Ubiquitin-like proteins and autophagy at a glance’ by Tomer Shpilka et al. (J. Cell Sci. 125, 2343-2348) and ‘Autophagy and cancer – issues we need to digest’ by Emma Liu and Kevin Ryan (J. Cell Sci. 125, 2349-2358).

  • Funding

    The work of our laboratory is supported by the National Institutes of Health [grant number GM62509]. Deposited in PMC for release after 12 months.

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