Autolysis is a process by which a biological cell self-destructs. It is uncommon in adult organisms and usually occurs in injured cells or dying tissue. It occurs when a lysosome allows the digestive enzymes out of its membranes. The cell then, in effect, digests itself. The effect of autolysis is usually lessened in organelles separated from a cell using cell fractionation, usually by keeping the organelle in the same conditions it was in before removal; usually keeping organelles as 'ice-cold isotonic buffers'.
The term derives from the Greek words αυτό ("self") and λύσις ("splitting").
In the food industry, autolysis involves killing the yeast and encouraging the breakdown of the cells by enzymes. It is used to give different flavors. For yeast extract, this process is triggered by the addition of salt.
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