Review: autophagy and neurodegeneration: survival at a cost?
Protein aggregation, mitochondrial impairment and oxidative stress are common to multiple neurodegenerative diseases. Homeostasis is regulated by a balanced set of anabolic and catabolic responses, which govern removal and repair of damaged proteins and organelles. Macroautophagy is an evolutionarily conserved pathway for the degradation of long-lived proteins, effete organelles and protein aggregates. Aberrations in macroautophagy have been observed in Alzheimer, Huntington, Parkinson, motor neuron and prion diseases. In this review, we will discuss the divergent roles of macroautophagy in neurodegenerative diseases and suggest a potential regulatory mechanism that could determine cell death or survival outcomes. We also highlight emerging data on neurite morphology and synaptic remodelling that indicate the possibility of detrimental functional trade-offs in the face of neuronal cell survival, particularly if the need for elevated macroautophagy is sustained.