Autophagy is a process of intracellular bulk degradation in which cytoplasmic components, including organelles, are sequestered within double-membrane vesicles that deliver the contents to the lysosome/vacuole for degradation. During macroautophagy, the sequestering vesicles, termed autophagosomes, fuse with the lysosome or vacuole resulting in the delivery of an inner vesicle (autophagic body) into the lumen of the degradative compartment. There are 16 proteins participating in the autophagy pathway in human. The autophagy protein LC3, a mammalian homologue of Atg8, was originally identified as microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3. It is a component of both the MAP1A and MAP1B microtubule-binding domains and the heavy-chain independent regulation of LC3 expression might modify MAP1 microtubule-binding activity during development. LC3 is the only known mammalian protein identified that stably associates with the autophagosome membranes. LC3-I is cytosolic and LC3-II is membrane bound and enriched in the autophagic vacuole fraction. The detection of LC3-I to LC3-II conversion is a useful and sensitive marker for distinguishing autophagy in mammalian cells.
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