When an organism experiences physiological stresses, such as nutrient starvation, it activates several mechanisms to promote its survival. One of these mechanisms is autophagy, which is a catabolic pathway conserved from yeast to man that functions as a recycling system during normal physiology, and which helps provide nutrients to sustain essential cellular processes during starvation. Although autophagy is an intensively studied process that plays a major role both in normal development and in a wide variety of diseases, several important aspects of autophagy remain to be elucidated. For instance, whereas the vast majority of studies have focused on how cells regulate the activation of autophagy, it remains largely unknown how cells and organisms shut off autophagy in response to returning nutrient availability. The limited knowledge of autophagy termination is partly due to a lack of available tools and appropriate methods. Addressing these challenges will not only provide important insight in this fundamental aspect of the autophagic process, but may potentially also identify new targets for development of drugs to manipulate this phase of autophagy. In FINALphagy I will develop new genetic and computational tools to quantify and manipulate the temporal dynamics of autophagy in an entire organism. I will unravel key mechanism of autophagy termination in individual cells within a tissue and dissect how this connects to systemic signaling and behavioral changes. This will generate a comprehensive toolbox for time- and space-resolved manipulation and quantification of autophagy levels, produce a whole-organism map of autophagy responses at the tissue-level, and conceptualize our understanding of the dynamics of autophagy regulation in an entire organism during changing nutrient levels.
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