Homeostatic Role of Autophagy in Hepatocytes

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Autophagy actively participates in the physiological process of the liver. While the direct effect of autophagy may be limited to the sequestration and degradation of a selective cargo, its overall impact can be broad, affecting many more physiological processes regulated by the particular cargo. This review will discuss two aspects of the importance of autophagy in the liver: metabolic regulation in response to feeding and starvation, and pathological consequences in the absence of autophagy. These two aspects illustrate the homeostatic functions of autophagy in the liver, one in a more direct fashion, regulating the cellular nutrient supply, and the other in a more indirect fashion, controlling the pathological signaling triggered by the abnormal accumulation of cargos. Remarkably, the hepatic pathology in autophagy-deficient livers does not seem different from that presented in other chronic liver diseases. Autophagy deficiency can be a model for the study of the relevant molecular mechanisms.

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