Autophagy is a fundamental biological process that enables cells to autodigest their own cytosol during starvation and other forms of stress. It has a growing spectrum of acknowledged roles in immunity, aging, development, neurodegeneration, and cancer biology. An immunological role of autophagy was first recognized with the discovery of autophagy's ability to sanitize the cellular interior by killing intracellular microbes. Since then, the repertoire of autophagy's roles in immunity has been vastly expanded to include a diverse but interconnected portfolio of regulatory and effector functions. Autophagy is an effector of Th1/Th2 polarization; it fuels MHC II presentation of cytosolic (self and microbial) antigens; it shapes central tolerance; it affects B and T cell homeostasis; it acts both as an effector and a regulator of Toll-like receptor and other innate immunity receptor signaling; and it may help ward off chronic inflammatory disease in humans. With such a multitude of innate and adaptive immunity functions, the study of autophagy in immunity is one of the most rapidly growing fields of contemporary immunological research.
This book introduces the reader to the fundamentals of autophagy, guides a novice and the well-informed reader alike through different immunological aspects of autophagy as well as the countermeasures used by highly adapted pathogens to fight autophagy, and provides the expert with the latest, up-to-date information on the specifics of the leading edge of autophagy research in infection and immunity.