Emerging roles of mitotic autophagy

Eugenia Almacellas, Caroline Mauvezin

Lysosomes exert pleiotropic functions to maintain cellular homeostasis and degrade autophagy cargo. Despite the great advances that have boosted our understanding of autophagy and lysosomes in both physiology and pathology, their function in mitosis is still controversial. During mitosis, most organelles are reshaped or repurposed to allow the correct distribution of chromosomes. Mitotic entry is accompanied by a reduction in sites of autophagy initiation, supporting the idea of an inhibition of autophagy to protect the genetic material against harmful degradation. However, there is accumulating evidence revealing the requirement of selective autophagy and functional lysosomes for a faithful chromosome segregation. Degradation is the most-studied lysosomal activity, but recently described alternative functions that operate in mitosis highlight the lysosomes as guardians of mitotic progression. Because the involvement of autophagy in mitosis remains controversial, it is important to consider the specific contribution of signalling cascades, the functions of autophagic proteins and the multiple roles of lysosomes, as three entangled, but independent, factors controlling genomic stability. In this Review, we discuss the latest advances in this area and highlight the therapeutic potential of targeting autophagy for drug development.