|apoptosis (āp'əp-tō'sĭs, āp'ə-tō'-) Pronunciation Key
A natural process of self-destruction in certain cells, such as epithelial cells and erythrocytes, that are genetically programmed to have a limited life span or are damaged. Apoptosis can be induced either by a stimulus, such as irradiation or toxic drugs, or by removal of a repressor agent. The cells disintegrate into membrane-bound particles that are then eliminated by phagocytosis. Also called programmed cell death.