Molecular and Functional Characterization of Selective Autophagy

Autophagosomen, grün angefärbt

Make autophagy visible: The recycling systems of autophagy can be examined in more detail by fluorescence microscopy. Here, the so-called autophagosomes, i.e. small membrane vesicles which contain the cellular material that is to be degraded, such as aggregated proteins, have been stained green. (Photo: Dr. Heide Genau, Frankfurt am Main)

It takes place in every human being and is a vital part of life: autophagy ("self-eating"). This degradation process enables cells to selectively dispose harmful or superfluous components; e.g. aggregated proteins or invaded microorganisms. At the same time, it contributes to continuous cell renewal and a balanced supply since the raw materials obtained can be directly recycled.

In addition, autophagy is a protective mechanism that is disrupted in many serious illnesses. For example, errors in this system can promote the development of cancer, Parkinson's disease, infectious diseases and inflammatory reactions. In order to intervene therapeutically, however, a precise knowledge of the underlying regulatory mechanisms is essential.

Scientists at the Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 1177 are investigating the complex interplay between cell renewal and cellular quality control. The interdisciplinary team of biochemists, cell biologists, structural biologists and physicians would like to gain a better understanding of autophagy at the molecular and cellular level. The long-term goal is to understand the effects of errors in the system and to find targets for new, targeted drugs.

The CRC for selective autophagy is a cooperation between Goethe University Frankfurt and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, together with the Georg Speyer Haus in Frankfurt and the Institute for Molecular Biology gGmbH in Mainz. It is the first large-scale collaborative project in Germany to address this topic, and it will enable the researchers from Frankfurt and Mainz to position themselves in an internationally highly competitive field.