Guidelines for the use and interpretation of assays for monitoring autophagy.

  • Klionsky DJ, Abdalla FC, Abeliovich H, Abraham RT, Acevedo-Arozena A, Adeli K, Agholme L, Agnello M, Agostinis P, Aguirre-Ghiso JA, Ahn HJ, Ait-Mohamed O, Ait-Si-Ali S, Akematsu T, Akira S, Al-Younes HM, Al-Zeer MA, Albert ML, Albin RL, Alegre-Abarrategui J, Aleo MF, Alirezaei M, Almasan A, Almonte-Becerril M, Amano A, Amaravadi R, Amarnath S, Amer AO, Andrieu-Abadie N, Anantharam V, Ann DK, Anoopkumar-Dukie S, Aoki H, Apostolova N, Arancia G, Aris JP, Asanuma K, Asare NY, Ashida H, Askanas V, Askew DS, Auberger P, Baba M, Backues SK, Baehrecke EH, Bahr BA, Bai XY, Bailly Y, Baiocchi R, Baldini G, Balduini W, Ballabio A, Bamber BA, Bampton ET, Bánhegyi G, Bartholomew CR, Bassham DC, Bast RC, Batoko H, Bay BH, Beau I, Béchet DM, Begley TJ, Behl C, Behrends C, Bekri S, Bellaire B, Bendall LJ, Benetti L, Berliocchi L, Bernardi H, Bernassola F, Besteiro S, Bhatia-Kissova I, Bi X, Biard-Piechaczyk M, Blum JS, Boise LH, Bonaldo P, Boone DL, Bornhauser BC, Bortoluci KR, Bossis I, Bost F, Bourquin JP, Boya P, Boyer-Guittaut M, Bozhkov PV, Brady NR, Brancolini C, Brech A, Brenman JE, Brennand A, Bresnick EH, Brest P, Bridges D, Bristol ML, Brookes PS, Brown EJ, Brumell JH, Brunetti-Pierri N, Brunk UT, Bulman DE, Bultman SJ, Bultynck G, Burbulla LF, Bursch W, Butchar JP, Buzgariu W, Bydlowski SP, Cadwell K, Cahová M, Cai D, Cai J, Cai Q, Calabretta B, Calvo-Garrido J, Camougrand N, Campanella M, Campos-Salinas J, Candi E, Cao L, Caplan AB, Carding SR, Cardoso SM, Carew JS, Carlin CR, Carmignac V, Carneiro LA, Carra S, Caruso RA, Casari G, Casas C, Castino R, Cebollero E, Cecconi F, Celli J, Chaachouay H, Chae HJ, Chai CY, Chan DC, Chan EY, Chang RC, Che CM, Chen CC, Chen GC, Chen GQ, Chen M, Chen Q, Chen SS, Chen W, Chen X, Chen X, Chen X, Chen YG, Chen Y, Chen Y, Chen YJ, Chen Z, Cheng A, Cheng CH, Cheng Y, Cheong H, Cheong JH, Cherry S, Chess-Williams R, Cheung ZH, Chevet E, Chiang HL, Chiarelli R, Chiba T, Chin LS, Chiou SH, Chisari FV, Cho CH, Cho DH, Choi AM, Choi D, Choi KS, Choi ME, Chouaib S, Choubey D, Choubey V, Chu CT, Chuang TH, Chueh SH, Chun T, Chwae YJ, Chye ML, Ciarcia R, Ciriolo MR, Clague MJ, Clark RS, Clarke PG, Clarke R, Codogno P, Coller HA, Colombo MI, Comincini S, Condello M, Condorelli F, Cookson MR, Coombs GH, Coppens I, Corbalan R, Cossart P, Costelli P, Costes S, Coto-Montes A, Couve E, Coxon FP, Cregg JM, Crespo JL, Cronjé MJ, Cuervo AM, Cullen JJ, Czaja MJ, D'Amelio M, Darfeuille-Michaud A, Davids LM, Davies FE, De Felici M, De Groot JF, De Haan CA, De Martino L, De Milito A, De Tata V, Debnath J, Degterev A, Dehay B, Delbridge LM, Demarchi F, Deng YZ, Dengjel J, Dent P, Denton D, Deretic V, Desai SD, Devenish RJ, Di Gioacchino M, Di Paolo G, Di Pietro C, Díaz-Araya G, Díaz-Laviada I, Diaz-Meco MT, Diaz-Nido J, Dikic I, Dinesh-Kumar SP, Ding WX, Distelhorst CW, Diwan A, Djavaheri-Mergny M, Dokudovskaya S, Dong Z, Dorsey FC, Dosenko V, Dowling JJ, Doxsey S, Dreux M, Drew ME, Duan Q, Duchosal MA, Duff K, Dugail I, Durbeej M, Duszenko M. Guidelines for the use and interpretation of assays for monitoring autophagy. Autophagy. 2012 Apr;8(8). 445-544. PMID: 22966490 [PubMed] PMCID: PMC3404883


In 2008 we published the first set of guidelines for standardizing research in autophagy. Since then, research on this topic has continued to accelerate, and many new scientists have entered the field. Our knowledge base and relevant new technologies have also been expanding. Accordingly, it is important to update these guidelines for monitoring autophagy in different organisms. Various reviews have described the range of assays that have been used for this purpose. Nevertheless, there continues to be confusion regarding acceptable methods to measure autophagy, especially in multicellular eukaryotes. A key point that needs to be emphasized is that there is a difference between measurements that monitor the numbers or volume of autophagic elements (e.g., autophagosomes or autolysosomes) at any stage of the autophagic process vs. those that measure flux through the autophagy pathway (i.e., the complete process); thus, a block in macroautophagy that results in autophagosome accumulation needs to be differentiated from stimuli that result in increased autophagic activity, defined as increased autophagy induction coupled with increased delivery to, and degradation within, lysosomes (in most higher eukaryotes and some protists such as Dictyostelium) or the vacuole (in plants and fungi). In other words, it is especially important that investigators new to the field understand that the appearance of more autophagosomes does not necessarily equate with more autophagy. In fact, in many cases, autophagosomes accumulate because of a block in trafficking to lysosomes without a concomitant change in autophagosome biogenesis, whereas an increase in autolysosomes may reflect a reduction in degradative activity. Here, we present a set of guidelines for the selection and interpretation of methods for use by investigators who aim to examine macroautophagy and related processes, as well as for reviewers who need to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of papers that are focused on these processes. These guidelines are not meant to be a formulaic set of rules, because the appropriate assays depend in part on the question being asked and the system being used. In addition, we emphasize that no individual assay is guaranteed to be the most appropriate one in every situation, and we strongly recommend the use of multiple assays to monitor autophagy. In these guidelines, we consider these various methods of assessing autophagy and what information can, or cannot, be obtained from them. Finally, by discussing the merits and limits of particular autophagy assays, we hope to encourage technical innovation in the field.