Autophagy, or “self-eating”, is an essential cellular quality control mechanism that clears the cell of protein aggregates and damaged organelles. This mechanism is inactive under normal conditions and only triggered upon persistent cellular stress. Researchers from the Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology (GMI) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Max Perutz Labs uncover a molecular switch that regulates autophagy in plants. Combining evolutionary analysis with a mechanistic experimental approach, they demonstrate that this regulatory mechanism is conserved in eukaryotes. The findings were published on February 10th in the EMBO Journal.