Fungal vacuoles are acidic organelles with degradative and storage capabilities that have many similarities to mammalian lysosomes and plant vacuoles. In the past several years, well-developed genetic, genomic, biochemical and cell biological tools in S. cerevisiae have provided fresh insights into vacuolar protein sorting, organelle acidification, ion homeostasis, autophagy, and stress-related functions of the vacuole, and these insights have often found parallels in mammalian lysosomes. This review provides a broad overview of the defining features and functions of S. cerevisiae vacuoles and compares these features to mammalian lysosomes. Recent research challenges the traditional view of vacuoles and lysosomes as simply the terminal compartment of biosynthetic and endocytic pathways (i.e. the "garbage dump" of the cell), and suggests instead that these compartments are unexpectedly dynamic and highly regulated.
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