We consider nonuniformly elliptic variational problems and give optimal conditions guaranteeing the local Lipschitz regularity of solutions in terms of the regularity of the given data. The analysis catches the main model cases in the literature. Integrals with fast, exponential-type growth conditions as well as integrals with unbalanced polynomial growth conditions are covered. Our criteria involve natural limiting function spaces and reproduce, in this very general context, the classical and optimal ones known in the linear case for the Poisson equation. Moreover, we provide new and natural growth a priori estimates whose validity was an open problem. Finally, we find new results also in the classical uniformly elliptic case. Beyond the specific results, the paper proposes a new approach to nonuniform ellipticity that, in a sense, allows us to reduce nonuniform elliptic problems to uniformly elliptic ones via potential theoretic arguments that are for the first time applied in this setting. © 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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