PerspectiveCell Biology

Autophagy's Top Chef

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Science  17 Jun 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6036, pp. 1392-1393
DOI: 10.1126/science.1208607

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In cells, organelles called lysosomes are responsible for breaking down a wide range of cellular material, such as proteins and other organelles, through a process known as autophagy (1). When nutrients are scarce, autophagy allows a cell to break down its own components and recycle important molecules (2). Autophagy involves about 35 autophagy-related genes (ATGs); these genes generate multiprotein complexes that act sequentially (3), much as kitchen assistants work in sequence to prepare a meal. Most of these autophagy assistants have been identified, but not a master chef. On page 1429 of this issue, Settembre et al. (4) describe how transcription factor EB (TFEB), which is already known to coordinate lysosome formation, functions as the master chef of autophagy when cells are starving.