Understanding the Definition of the “Auto” Prefix in Biology
Find Out More About Words Like Autoimmunity, Autonomic, and Autochthon
Moritz Haisch / EyeEm / Getty Images
- B.A., Biology, Emory University
- A.S., Nursing, Chattahoochee Technical College
The English prefix “auto-” means self, same, occurring from within, or spontaneous. To remember this prefix, which was originally derived from the Greek word “auto” meaning “self,” easily think of common words that you know that share the “auto-” prefix like automobile (a car you drive for yourself) or automatic (description for something spontaneous or that works on its own).
Take a look at other words used for biological terms that begin with the prefix “auto-.”
Autoantibodies are antibodies that are produced by an organism that attacks the organism’s own cells and tissues. Many autoimmune diseases like lupus are caused by autoantibodies.
Autocatalysis is catalysis or the acceleration of a chemical reaction that is caused by one of the products of the reaction acting as a catalyst. In glycolysis, which is the breakdown of glucose to form energy, one part of the process is powered by autocatalysis.
Autochthon refers to the indigenous animals or plants of a region or the earliest known, native inhabitants of a country. The Aboriginal people of Australia are considered autochthons.
Autocoid means the natural internal secretion, such as a hormone, that is produced in one part of the body and affects another part of the organism. The suffix is derived from the Greek “acos” meaning relief, for example, from a drug.
Autogamy is the term for self-fertilization as in the pollination of a flower by its own pollen or the fusion of gametes resulting from the division of a single parent cell that occurs in some fungi and protozoans.
The word autogenic literally translates from Greek to mean “self-generating” or it is produced from within. For example, you can use autogenic training or self-hypnosis or mediation in an attempt to control your own body temperature or blood pressure.
In biology, autoimmunity means that an organism cannot recognize its own cells and tissues, which may trigger an immune response or attack of those parts.
Autolysis is the destruction of a cell by its own enzymes; self-digestion. The suffix lysis (also derived from Greek) means “loosening.” In English, the suffix “lysis” can mean decomposition, dissolution, destruction, loosening, breaking down, separation, or disintegration.
Autonomic refers to an internal process that occurs involuntarily or spontaneously. It is used in human biology prominently when describing the part of the nervous system which controls the body’s involuntary functions, the autonomic nervous system.
Autoploid relates to a cell that has two or more copies of a single haploid set of chromosomes. Depending on the number of copies, the autoploid can be categorized as autodiploids (two sets), autotriploids (three sets), autotetraploids (four sets), autopentaploids (five sets), or autohexaploids (six sets), and so on.
An autosome is a chromosome that is not a sex chromosome and appears in pairs in somatic cells. Sex chromosomes are known as allosomes.
An autotroph is an organism that is self-nourishing or capable of generating its own food. The suffix “-troph” which derives from Greek, means “nourishing.” Algae is an example of an autotroph.
Biology prefixes and suffixes help us to understand science terms. The prefix "auto-" means self, same, or refers to an involuntary process.