ESCRT (endosomal sorting complex required for transport) proteins were originally identified for their role in delivering endocytosed proteins to the intraluminal vesicles of late-endosomal structures termed multivesicular bodies. Multivesicular bodies then fuse with lysosomes, leading to degradation of the internalized proteins. Four ESCRT complexes interact to concentrate cargo on the endosomal membrane, induce membrane curvature to form an intraluminal bud and finally pinch off the bud through a membrane-scission event to produce the intraluminal vesicle. Recent work suggests that ESCRT proteins are also required downstream of these events to enable fusion of multivesicular bodies with lysosomes. Autophagy is a related pathway required for the degradation of organelles, long-lived proteins and protein aggregates which also converges on lysosomes. The proteins or organelle to be degraded are encapsulated by an autophagosome that fuses either directly with a lysosome or with an endosome to form an amphisome, which then fuses with a lysosome. A common machinery is beginning to emerge that regulates fusion events in the multivesicular body and autophagy pathways, and we focus in the present paper on the role of ESCRT proteins. These fusion events have been implicated in diseases including frontotemporal dementia, Alzheimer's disease, lysosomal storage disorders, myopathies and bacterial pathogen invasion, and therefore further examination of the mechanisms involved may lead to new insight into disease pathogenesis and treatments.

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