The removal of damaged or superfluous organelles from the cytosol by selective autophagy is required to maintain organelle function, quality control and overall cellular homeostasis. Precisely how substrate selectivity is achieved, and how individual substrates are degraded during selective autophagy in response to both extracellular and intracellular cues is not well understood. The aim of this review is to highlight pexophagy, the autophagic degradation of peroxisomes, as a model for selective autophagy. Peroxisomes are dynamic organelles whose abundance is rapidly modulated in response to metabolic demands. Peroxisomes are routinely turned over by pexophagy for organelle quality control yet can also be degraded by pexophagy in response to external stimuli such as amino acid starvation or hypoxia. This review discusses the molecular machinery and regulatory mechanisms governing substrate selectivity during both quality-control pexophagy and pexophagy in response to external stimuli, in yeast and mammalian systems. We draw lessons from pexophagy to infer how the cell may coordinate the degradation of individual substrates by selective autophagy across different cellular cues.
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