Neurodegenerative Diseases and Autophagy


Most neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by the accumulation of aggregated proteins within neurons. These aggregate-prone proteins cause toxicity, a phenomenon that is further exacerbated when there is defective protein clearance. Autophagy is an intracellular clearance pathway that can clear these protein aggregates and has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases in a variety of model systems. Here, we introduce the key components of the autophagy machinery and signaling pathways that control this process and discuss the evidence that autophagic flux may be impaired and therefore a contributing factor in neurodegenerative disease pathogenesis. Finally, we review the use of autophagy upregulation as a therapeutic strategy to treat neurodegenerative disorders.