During micronucleophagy, the nucleolus is targeted by autophagic degradation, but although nucleolar proteins are recycled, ribosomal DNA is spared. Mostofa et al. (2018. J. Cell Biol. https://doi.org/10.1083/jcb.201706164) reveal that the separation of these two nucleolar components is mediated by the CLIP and cohibin complexes and is vital for cell survival during starvation.