1 Lund Group, BRIC Research Groups, BRIC, Københavns Universitet2 Lund Group, BRIC Research Groups, BRIC, Københavns Universitet
Macroautophagy (hereafter referred to as autophagy) is a tightly regulated intracellular catabolic pathway involving the lysosomal degradation of cytoplasmic organelles and proteins. Central to this process is the formation of the autophagosome, a double membrane-bound vesicle, which is responsible for the delivery of cytoplasmic cargo to the lysosomes. Autophagy levels are constantly changing, allowing adaptation to both immediate and long-term needs of the cell, underlining why tight control of this process is essential in order to prevent the development of pathological disorders. Substantial progress has recently contributed to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of the autophagy machinery, yet several gaps remain in our knowledge of this process. The discovery of microRNAs (miRNAs) established a new paradigm of post-transcriptional gene regulation and during the past decade these small non-coding RNAs have been closely linked to virtually all known fundamental biological pathways. Deregulation of miRNAs can contribute to the development of human diseases, including cancer, where they can function as bona fide oncogenes or tumor suppressors.In this review, we highlight recent advances linking miRNAs to regulation of the autophagy pathway. This regulation occurs both through specific core pathway components as well as through less well-defined mechanisms. Although this field is still in its infancy, we are beginning to understand the potential implications of these initial findings, both from a pathological perspective, but also from a therapeutic view, where miRNAs can be harnessed experimentally to alter autophagy levels in human tumors, affecting parameters such as tumor survival and treatment sensitivity.