Autophagy, the process of bulk degradation of cellular proteins through an autophagosomic-lysosomal pathway is important for normal growth control and may be defective in tumor cells. It is involved in the preservation of cellular nutrients under starvation conditions as well as the normal turnover of cytosolic components. Two of the strongest hits implicate genes IRGM and ATG16L1, which encode proteins thought to be critical to the autophagy pathway and being significantly associated with Crohn’s disease. In mouse, IRGM belongs to a family of gamma-interferon-induced GTP-binding proteins of approximately 48 kDa. Murine IRGM induces autophagy and generates large autolysosomal organelles as a mechanism for the elimination of intracellular Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Human IRGM is also involved in autophagy and plays a role in the control of intracellular pathogens and in the reduction of intracellular bacillary load.
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