Stem Cell Reviews and Reports

, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 621–633 | Cite as

The Role of Autophagy in the Maintenance of Stemness and Differentiation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells

  • Francesca Vittoria Sbrana
  • Margherita Cortini
  • Sofia Avnet
  • Francesca Perut
  • Marta Columbaro
  • Angelo De Milito
  • Nicola Baldini


Regulated self-consumption, also known as autophagy, is an evolutionary conserved process that degrades cellular components by directing them to the lysosomal compartment of eukaryotic cells. As a major intracellular degradation and recycling pathway, autophagy is crucial for maintaining and remodeling cellular homeostasis during normal cellular and tissue development. Recent studies have demonstrated that autophagy is necessary for the maintenance of cellular stemness and for a number of differentiation processes, including the lineage determination of mesenchymal stem cells. These are multipotent progenitor cells with self-renewal capacities that can give rise to a subset of tissues and thus hold a consistent potential in regenerative medicine. Here, we review the current literature on the complex liaison between autophagy induced by various extra- or intracellular stimuli and the molecular targets that affect mesenchymal stem cells proliferation and differentiation.


Mesenchymal stem cell Autophagy Stemness Differentiation Hypoxia Acidity Senescence 



Financial support by the Italian Ministry of the Health, Financial Support for Scientific Research “5 per mille 2012” (to NB and to Marta Columbaro), by the Regione Emilia Romagna, Programma di Ricerca Regione-Università 2010-2012– Strategic Programme ‘Regenerative medicine of cartilage and bone’ (to NB).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare NO potential conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesca Vittoria Sbrana
    • 1
    • 2
  • Margherita Cortini
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sofia Avnet
    • 1
  • Francesca Perut
    • 1
  • Marta Columbaro
    • 3
  • Angelo De Milito
    • 4
  • Nicola Baldini
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Orthopaedic Pathophysiology and Regenerative Medicine UnitIstituto Ortopedico RizzoliBolognaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor SciencesUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly
  3. 3.SC Laboratory of Musculoskeletal Cell BiologyIstituto Ortopedico RizzoliBolognaItaly
  4. 4.Department of Oncology-Pathology, Cancer Center KarolinskaKarolinska InstituteStockholmSweden

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