Institute of Experimental Pharmacology and Toxicology, University Medical Center Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany; German Centre for Cardiovascular Research, Partner Site Hamburg/Kiel/Lübeck, Hamburg, Germany. Electronic address: [Email]
Autophagy (greek auto: self; phagein: eating) is a highly conserved process within eukaryotes that degrades long-lived proteins and organelles within lysosomes. Its accurate and constant operation in basal conditions ensures cellular homeostasis by degrading damaged cellular components and thereby acting not only as a quality control but as well as an energy supplier. An increasing body of evidence indicates a major role of autophagy in the regulation of cardiac homeostasis and function. In this review, we describe the different forms of mammalian autophagy, their regulations and monitoring with a specific emphasis on the heart. Furthermore, we address the role of autophagy in several forms of cardiomyopathy and the options for therapy.