Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved process utilized by most organisms to clear cellular damage and recycle building blocks for energy production. In this chapter, we emphasize the importance of genetic model organisms, including yeast, nematodes, flies, and mammals in the discovery and understanding of the autophagy process. We highlight the important roles of autophagy in aging, stress tolerance, neuronal health, organismal development, and pathogen resistance in invertebrate and vertebrate model organisms. We provide examples on how the same autophagy‐related pathways that increase stress response and longevity in lower organisms could be utilized by cancer cells to survive harsh microenvironments, proliferate, and metastasize, with emphasis on the dual role of autophagy in cancer: an antitumorigenic or a protumorigenic process.
Part of the book: Autophagy in Current Trends in Cellular Physiology and Pathology