Peroxisomes are essential organelles in many eukaryotes. Until recently, the main focus of the investigations concerning these important organelles was to understand the biogenesis of the peroxisome (induction, proliferation and matrix protein import). However, when peroxisomes become redundant they are quickly degraded by highly selective processes known as pexophagy. The first molecular studies on pexophagy have indicated that this process shares many features with certain transport pathways to the vacuole (vacuolar protein sorting, autophagy, cytoplasm-to-vacuole targeting and endocytosis). Nevertheless, recent data demonstrate that in addition to common genes also unique genes are required for these transport processes. The main focus for the future should therefore be on identifying the unique determinants of pexophagy. Earlier results suggest that in the methylotrophic yeast Hansenula polymorpha proteins located on the peroxisome itself are required for pexophagy. Thus, it has become essential to study in detail the role of peroxisomal membrane proteins in the degradation process. This review highlights the main achievements of the last few years, with emphasis on H. polymorpha. (C) 2003 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.