In activated sludge processes an increased sludge age is associated with a decreased sludge production. This phenomenon is generally interpreted as a result of endogenous respiration processes. In the activated sludge models cell lysis (or decay) is incorporated. The lysis is modelled such that it leads to generation of particulate substrate, which by a hydrolysis process is converted into soluble substrate. The substrate is then converted to biomass again by growth processes. In this manner a good description of activated sludge processes is obtained, however this does not mean that the proposed mechanism is microbiologically correct. The lysis/decay model mechanism is a strongly simplified representation of reality. This paper tries to review the processes grouped under endogenous respiration in activated sludge models. Mechanisms and processes such as maintenance, lysis, internal and external decay, predation and death-regeneration are discussed. From recent microbial research it has become evident that cells do not die by themselves. Bacteria are however subject to predation by protozoa. Bacteria store reserve polymers that in absence of external substrate are used for growth and maintenance processes. This conversion will in general be denoted as endogenous respiration. Based on the literature review the phenomena are discussed and organised, in order to create a working platform for discussing more detailed activated sludge models, one of which is being sketched. (C) 1999 IAWQ Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.