Death by design: apoptosis, necrosis and autophagy

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2004 Dec;16(6):663-9. doi: 10.1016/


Apoptosis is the principal mechanism by which cells are physiologically eliminated in metazoan organisms. During apoptotic death, cells are neatly carved up by caspases and packaged into apoptotic bodies as a mechanism to avoid immune activation. Recently, necrosis, once thought of as simply a passive, unorganized way to die, has emerged as an alternate form of programmed cell death whose activation might have important biological consequences, including the induction of an inflammatory response. Autophagy has also been suggested as a possible mechanism for non-apoptotic death despite evidence from many species that autophagy represents a survival strategy in times of stress. Recent advances have helped to define the function of and mechanism for programmed necrosis and the role of autophagy in cell survival and suicide.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Autophagy*
  • Cell Death
  • DNA Damage
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Inflammation
  • Models, Biological
  • Necrosis*