Autophagy is a conserved cellular degradative process important for cellular homoeostasis and survival. An early committal step during the initiation of autophagy requires the actions of a protein kinase called ATG1 (autophagy gene 1). In mammalian cells, ATG1 is represented by ULK1 (uncoordinated-51-like kinase 1), which relies on its essential regulatory cofactors mATG13, FIP200 (focal adhesion kinase family-interacting protein 200 kDa) and ATG101. Much evidence indicates that mTORC1 [mechanistic (also known as mammalian) target of rapamycin complex 1] signals downstream to the ULK1 complex to negatively regulate autophagy. In this chapter, we discuss our understanding on how the mTORC1–ULK1 signalling axis drives the initial steps of autophagy induction. We conclude with a summary of our growing appreciation of the additional cellular pathways that interconnect with the core mTORC1–ULK1 signalling module.

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