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BioMed Research International
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 902315, 11 pages
Review Article

A Molecular View of Autophagy in Lepidoptera

Department of Biotechnology and Life Sciences, University of Insubria, Via J. H. Dunant 3, 21100 Varese, Italy

Received 24 January 2014; Revised 6 June 2014; Accepted 20 June 2014; Published 16 July 2014

Academic Editor: Gábor Juhász

Copyright © 2014 Davide Romanelli et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Metamorphosis represents a critical phase in the development of holometabolous insects, during which the larval body is completely reorganized: in fact, most of the larval organs undergo remodeling or completely degenerate before the final structure of the adult insect is rebuilt. In the past, increasing evidence emerged concerning the intervention of autophagy and apoptosis in the cell death processes that occur in larval organs of Lepidoptera during metamorphosis, but a molecular characterization of these pathways was undertaken only in recent years. In addition to developmentally programmed autophagy, there is growing interest in starvation-induced autophagy. Therefore we are now entering a new era of research on autophagy that foreshadows clarification of the role and regulatory mechanisms underlying this self-digesting process in Lepidoptera. Given that some of the most important lepidopteran species of high economic importance, such as the silkworm, Bombyx mori, belong to this insect order, we expect that this information on autophagy will be fully exploited not only in basic research but also for practical applications.