38 Eukaryotic Cell Division

Eukaryotes have two major types of cell division: mitosis and meiosis. Mitosis is used to produce new body cells for growth and healing, while meiosis is used to produce sex cells (eggs and sperm). Meiosis will be discussed in a later chapter.

The cell cycle is an ordered series of events involving cell growth and cell division that produces two new daughter cells via mitosis. The length of the cell cycle is highly variable even within the cells of an individual organism. In humans, the frequency of cell turnover ranges from a few hours in early embryonic development to an average of two to five days for epithelial cells, or to an entire human lifetime spent without dividing in specialized cells such as cortical neurons or cardiac muscle cells. There is also variation in the time that a cell spends in each phase of the cell cycle. When fast-dividing mammalian cells are grown in culture (outside the body under optimal growing conditions), the length of the cycle is approximately 24 hours. The timing of events in the cell cycle is controlled by mechanisms that are both internal and external to the cell.

Cells on the path to cell division proceed through a series of precisely timed and carefully regulated stages of growth, DNA replication, and division that produce two genetically identical cells. The cell cycle has two major phases: interphase and the mitotic phase (Figure 6.3). During interphase, the cell grows and DNA is replicated. During the mitotic phase, the replicated DNA and cytoplasmic contents are separated and the cell divides.

Cell cycle
Figure 3: A cell moves through a series of phases in an orderly manner. During interphase, G1 involves cell growth and protein synthesis, the S phase involves DNA replication and the replication of the centrosome, and G2 involves further growth and protein synthesis. The mitotic phase follows interphase. Mitosis is nuclear division during which duplicated chromosomes are segregated and distributed into daughter nuclei. Usually the cell will divide after mitosis in a process called cytokinesis in which the cytoplasm is divided and two daughter cells are formed.


During interphase, the cell undergoes normal processes while also preparing for cell division. For a cell to move from interphase to the mitotic phase, many internal and external conditions must be met.

The Mitotic Phase

Figure 4: Mitosis in onion root cells. The cells in this image are in various stages of mitosis. (Credit: Spike Walker. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://images.wellcome.ac.uk)

To make two daughter cells, the contents of the nucleus and the cytoplasm must be divided. The mitotic phase is a multistep process during which the duplicated chromosomes are aligned, separated, and moved to opposite poles of the cell, and then the cell is divided into two new identical daughter cells. The first portion of the mitotic phase, mitosis, is composed of five stages, which accomplish nuclear division. The second portion of the mitotic phase, called cytokinesis, is the physical separation of the cytoplasmic components into two daughter cells. Although the stages of mitosis are similar for most eukaryotes, the process of cytokinesis is quite different for eukaryotes that have cell walls, such as plant cells.

Cytokinesis in animal and plant cells
Figure 5: In part (a), a cleavage furrow forms at the former metaphase plate in the animal cell. The plasma membrane is drawn in by a ring of actin fibers contracting just inside the membrane. The cleavage furrow deepens until the cells are pinched in two. In part (b), Golgi vesicles coalesce at the former metaphase plate in a plant cell. The vesicles fuse and form the cell plate. The cell plate grows from the center toward the cell walls. New cell walls are made from the vesicle contents.

Steps of the mitotic phase

The mitotic phase occurs in five steps: prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase. The major events in each are shown in the diagram below (Figure 6).

The steps of mitosis: prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase, telophase.
Figure 6: The steps of mitosis: prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase, telophase. (Credit: available on Wikikcommons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:SVG_mitosis#/media/File:Mitosis_schematic_diagram-en.svg)


G0 Phase

Not all cells adhere to the classic cell-cycle pattern in which a newly formed daughter cell immediately enters interphase, closely followed by the mitotic phase. Cells in the G0 phase are not actively preparing to divide. The cell is in a quiescent (inactive) stage, having exited the cell cycle. Some cells enter G0 temporarily until an external signal triggers the onset of G1. Other cells that never or rarely divide, such as mature cardiac muscle and nerve cells, remain in G0 permanently.


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OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. May 27, 2016 http://cnx.org/contents/s8Hh0oOc@9.10:Vbi92lHB@9/The-Cell-Cycle

OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. May 27, 2016 http://cnx.org/contents/s8Hh0oOc@9.10:LlKfCy5H@4/Prokaryotic-Cell-Division

Wikicommons. 2021. Steps of mitosis. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:SVG_mitosis#/media/File:Mitosis_schematic_diagram-en.svg


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Mt Hood Community College Biology 102 by Lisa Bartee and Christine Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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