One of the two cycles of viral reproduction (the other being the lysogenic cycle), which is usually considered as the main method of viral reproduction because it ends in the lysis of the infected cell releasing the progeny viruses that will in turn spread and infect other cells.
The stages of the lytic cycle are as follows:
Attachment - the virus attaches itself to the host cell.
Injection - the virus inserts its genetic material into the host cell.
Integration - the genetic material tells the cell what to do.
Replication - the host cell builds parts of the virus.
Assembly - the cell assembles the replicated parts into progeny viruses.
Lysis - the cell breaks open and each replicated virus can now infect other cells.
Some viruses, though, can leave the infected cell not through lysis but rather by budding off from the cell taking a portion of the membrane with them.
Compare: lysogenic cycle.
See also: virus, reproduction.