Autophagy is an elegant and complex biological process that has recently attracted much attention from the scientific community. The compounds which are capable of control and modulation of this process have a promising potential as therapeutics for a number of pathological conditions, including cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. At the same time, due to the relatively young age of the field, there are still some pitfalls in the autophagy monitoring assays and interpretation of the experimental data. This critical review provides an overview of the marine natural compounds, which have been reported to affect autophagy. The time period from the beginning of 2016 to the middle of 2020 is covered. Additionally, the published data and conclusions based on the experimental results are re-analyzed with regard to the guidelines developed by Klionsky and colleagues (Autophagy. 2016; 12(1): 1–222), which are widely accepted by the autophagy research community. Remarkably and surprisingly, more than half of the compounds reported to be autophagy activators or inhibitors could not ultimately be assigned to either category. The experimental data reported for those substances could indicate both autophagy activation and inhibition, requiring further investigation. Thus, the reviewed molecules were divided into two groups: having validated and non-validated autophagy modulatory effects. This review gives an analysis of the recent updates in the field and raises an important problem of standardization in the experimental design and data interpretation.
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