Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism by which cytoplasmic elements are degraded intracellularly. Autophagy has also emerged as a major regulator of cardiac homeostasis and function. Autophagy preserves cardiac structure and function under baseline conditions and is activated during stress, limiting damage under most conditions. It reduces injury and preserves cardiac function during ischemia. It also reduces chronic ischemic remodeling and mediates the cardiac adaptation to pressure overload by restricting misfolded protein accumulation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and oxidative stress. Impairment of autophagy is involved in the development of diabetes and aging-induced cardiac abnormalities. Autophagy defects contribute to the development of cardiac proteinopathy and doxorubicin-induced cardiomyopathy. However, massive activation of autophagy may be detrimental for the heart in certain stress conditions, such as reperfusion injury. In this review, we discuss recent evidence supporting the important role of autophagy and mitophagy in the regulation of cardiac homeostasis and adaptation to stress.


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