Autophagy, or not to be: The delicate balance of cellular self-digestion in neurons and neurodegeneration
Lassen, Amy Denise
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Neurons rely on autophagy for some critical functions, perhaps even more so than non-neuronal cells , but the process does not have such a clear-cut role in these cells. In some cases, autophagy can assist the cell by clearing out toxic aggregates. In other cases, however, autophagy has the opposite effect and can instead spell death for the cell . The control of autophagy in neurons is delicately balanced and a tip of the scale to one or the other side can have disastrous consequences for these post-mitotic cells. The role of autophagy in neurodegenerative diseases is an especially controversial topic, with studies on the one hand arguing that autophagy is protecting neurons from death. On the other hand, there have been studies that show autophagy hastens cell death, and blocking autophagy can actually partially rescue neurons. Depending on which direction a cell takes, induction of autophagy could answer a neuron's question, "To be, or not to be?"
- Biological chemistry