Autophagy is a membrane trafficking mechanism that delivers cytoplasmic cargo to the vacuole/lysosome for degradation and recycling. In addition to non-specific bulk cytosol, selective cargoes, such as peroxisomes, are sorted for autophagic transport under specific physiological conditions. In a nutrient-rich growth environment, many of the autophagic components are recruited for executing a biosynthetic trafficking process, the cytoplasm to vacuole targeting (Cvt) pathway, that transports the resident hydrolases aminopeptidase I and alpha-mannosidase to the vacuole in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Recent studies have identified pathway-specific components that are necessary to divert a protein kinase and a lipid kinase complex to regulate the conversion between the Cvt pathway and autophagy. Downstream of these proteins, the general machinery for transport vesicle formation involves two novel conjugation systems and a putative membrane protein complex. Completed vesicles are targeted to, and fuse with, the vacuole under the control of machinery shared with other vacuolar trafficking pathways. Inside the vacuole, a potential lipase and several proteases are responsible for the final steps of vesicle breakdown, precursor enzyme processing and substrate turnover. In this review, we discuss the most recent developments in yeast autophagy and point out the challenges we face in the future.
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