Autolysis is the self-destruction of a cell or tissue by a self-producing enzyme. The process of autolysis is commonly used in the food and beverage industry.
Yeast cells autolyze after they have completed their life cycle. The cell membrane loses permeability and the cell wall's porosity is altered. As a result, endogenous enzymes hydrolyze cellular macromolecules, and the breakdown products leak into the extra cellular space. Although this phenomenon occurs naturally, the process can be expedited by exposing yeast to factors such as higher temperatures, detergents and organic solvents. Yeast autolysis is used to obtain yeast extract, an ingredient in many flavor enhancers and meat products.