Chromatolysis is the dissolution of the Nissl bodies in the cell body of a neuron. It is an induced response of the cell usually triggered by axotomy, ischemia, toxicity to the cell, cell exhaustion, virus infections, and hibernation in lower vertebrates. Neuronal recovery through regeneration can occur after chromatolysis, but most often it is a precursor of apoptosis. The event of chromatolysis is also characterized by a prominent migration of the nucleus towards the periphery of the cell and an increase in the size of the nucleolus, nucleus, and cell body. The term "chromatolysis" was initially used in the 1940s to describe the observed form of cell death characterized by the gradual disintegration of nuclear components; a process which is now called apoptosis. Chromatolysis is still used as a term to distinguish the particular apoptotic process in the neuronal cells, where Nissl substance disintegrates.

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