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Since our discovery of autophagy in yeast 27 years ago, the primary objective of our research group has been the molecular characterization of autophagy. Through the pioneering use of genetics in our studies, we were able to turn the field of autophagy on its head and trigger an explosion in autophagy research that continues apace. However, there remain many unanswered questions in this field. One major reason that these problems remain unsolved is that the biochemical analysis of autophagy is not straightforward, and it is therefore necessary to undertake innovative work that addresses the mysteries that remain between the genetic and phenotypic characteristics of cells. We have returned our focus to a fundamental level and are now examining the role of autophagy under physiological conditions, considering not only proteins but also nucleic acids, lipids, complexes of these molecules and structural features of their degradation by autophagy. To this end, we draw on the vast body of genetic knowledge available in yeast to use maximize the potential of this model organism, addressing fundamental problems in autophagy research using mass spectrophotometry and other cutting-edge technology.
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