A great part of our current understanding of mammalian macroautophagy is derived from studies of the liver. The term "autophagy" was introduced by Christian de Duve in part based on ultrastructural changes in rat liver following glucagon injection. Subsequent morphological, biochemical, and kinetics studies of autophagy in the liver defined the basic process of autophagosome formation, maturation, and degradation and the regulation of autophagy by hormones, phosphoinositide 3-kinases, and mammalian target of rapamycin. It is now clear that macroautophagy in the liver is important for the balance of energy and nutrients for basic cell functions, the removal of misfolded proteins resulting from genetic mutations or pathophysiological stimulations, and the turnover of major subcellular organelles such as mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, and peroxisomes under both normal and pathophysiological conditions. Disturbance of autophagy function in the liver could thus have a major impact on liver physiology and liver disease.
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