Molecular Neurobiology, Oct 2012

The "Janus-faced role" of autophagy in neuronal sickness: focus on neurodegeneration

Viscomi MT, D'Amelio M.


The mature brain is a highly dynamic organ that constantly changes its organization by destroying and forming new connections. Collectively, these changes are referred to as brain plasticity and are associated with functional changes, such as memory, addiction, and recovery of function after brain damage. Neuronal plasticity is sustained by the fine regulation of protein synthesis and organelle biogenesis and their degradation to ensure efficient turnover. Thus, autophagy, as quality control mechanism of proteins and organelles in neurons, is essential to their physiology and pathology. Here, we review recent several findings proving that defects in autophagy affect neuronal function and impair functional recovery after brain insults, contributing to neurodegeneration, in chronic and acute neurological disorders. Thus, an understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which the autophagy machinery is finely regulated might accelerate the development of therapeutic interventions in many neurological disorders for which no cure is available.


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