Figure 1. Role of moderate autophagy in atherosclerosis. The process of autophagy primarily involves the following steps: phagophore elongation, autophagosome formation, autophagosome-lysosome fusion, autolysosome formation, acidic hydrolase-mediated degradation of the autophagosome cargo and recycling of constituent macromolecules. In addition, moderate autophagy can inhibit atherosclerosis by protecting plaque cells (i.e., ECs, VSMCs, and macrophages) against apoptosis, inflammation, lipid accumulation, and abnormal phenotype switching. ECs, endothelial cells; VSMCs, vascular smooth muscle cells.