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(derived from onkos, meaning swelling) a form of passive or accidental cell death, also referred to as swelling necrosis or oncotic necrosis (see also: accidental cell death). This type of lethal injury is characterized by nuclear and cytoplasmic swelling, vacuolization of cytoplasm, and mitochondrial swelling (Majno and Joris, 1995). It is thus different from apoptosis, which is not a form of accidental cell death, and which is characterized by cell shrinkage Trump et al, 1998; Levin et al, 1998). Cell death caused by ischemia is often associated with features of oncosis.

The term oncosis is used frequently to mean necrosis or to refer to the early phase of primary necrosis. Both types of cell death (i.e., oncotic and apoptotic) lead to postmortem changes collectively termed "necrosis."

Some of the assays available to detect cell death, for example the Annexin-5 apoptosis assay, do not discriminate between apoptosis and oncosis. The cell surface receptor Porimin has been associated with cell death by oncosis.

For other entries pertaining to cell death mechanisms see also the Apoptosis and Cell Death Dictionary section of this encyclopedia.

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