Is cell apoptosis (programmed cell death) the same as autolysis?
Apoptosis is programmed cell death whereas autolysis is digestion of the cell from within.
The difference is mainly in the mechanism by which a cell dies.
Apoptosis is programmed cell death, a very neat way of a cell to dispose of itself. It is a decision, an intentional process that is highly regulated. It occurs in specific biochemical steps leading to characteristic morphological changes (changes in cell membrane, asymmetry, cell shrinkage, chromatin condensation etc.).
Apoptosis can be a process in healthy tissues and is an important mechanism in development of an embryo.
Autolysis is also a relatively controlled mechanism for a cell to die. In this process, the enzymes usually only present in lysosomes are released. This causes the cell to eat itself from within. It is still regulated, but not programmed as apoptosis, no characteristic morphological changes occur.
Autolysis is a response to injury or infection and generally does not occur in healthy cells.