Lysosomes critically regulate the pH-dependent catabolism of extracellular and intracellular macromolecules delivered from the endocytic/heterophagy and autophagy pathways, respectively. The importance of lysosomes to cell survival is underscored not only by their unique ability effectively to degrade metalloproteins and oxidatively damaged macromolecules, but also by the distinct potential for induction of both caspase-dependent and -independent cell death with a compromise in the integrity of lysosome function. Oxidative stress and free radical damage play a principal role in cell death induced by lysosome dysfunction and may be linked to several upstream and downstream stimuli, including alterations in the autophagy degradation pathway, inhibition of lysosome enzyme function, and lysosome membrane damage. Neurons are sensitive to lysosome dysfunction, and the contribution of oxidative stress and free radical damage to lysosome dysfunction may contribute to the etiology of neurodegenerative disease. This review provides a broad overview of lysosome function and explores the contribution of oxidative stress and autophagy to lysosome dysfunction-induced neuron death. Putative signaling pathways that either induce lysosome dysfunction or result from lysosome dysfunction or both, and the role of oxidative stress, free radical damage, and lysosome dysfunction in pediatric lysosomal storage disorders (neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses or NCL/Batten disease) and in Alzheimer's disease are emphasized. © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2009.