The Cell Cycle

The Cell Cycle

Overview

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the three stages of interphase
  • Discuss the behavior of chromosomes during karyokinesis
  • Explain how the cytoplasmic content is divided during cytokinesis
  • Define the quiescent G0 phase

Opening Photo:  Cleavage furrow in two dividiing mollusc cells.  (Public domain).

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the three stages of interphase
  • Discuss the behavior of chromosomes during mitosis and how the cytoplasmic content divides during cytokinesis
  • Define the quiescent G0 phase
  • Explain how the three internal control checkpoints occur at the end of G1, at the G2–M transition, and during metaphase

The cell cycle is an ordered series of events involving cell growth and cell division that produces two new daughter cells. 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. Watch this video about the cell cycle: http://openstax.org/l/biocellcyc

Introduction to the Cell Cycle

 

Like a clock, the cell cycles from interphase to the mitotic phase and back to interphase. Most of the cell cycle is spent in interphase, which is subdivided into G_{1}, S, and G_{2} phases. Cell growth occurs during G_{1}, DNA synthesis occurs during S, and more growth occurs during G_{2}. The mitotic phase consists of mitosis, in which the nuclear chromatin is divided, and cytokinesis, in which the cytoplasm is divided, resulting in two daughter cells.

The cell cycle consists of interphase and the mitotic phase. During interphase, the cell grows and the nuclear DNA is duplicated. Interphase is followed by the mitotic phase. During the mitotic phase, the duplicated chromosomes are segregated and distributed into daughter nuclei. The cytoplasm is usually divided as well, resulting in two daughter cells.

Interphase

During interphase, the cell undergoes normal growth processes while also preparing for cell division. In order for a cell to move from interphase into the mitotic phase, many internal and external conditions must be met. The three stages of interphase are called G1, S, and G2.

G1 Phase (First Gap)

The first stage of interphase is called the G1 phase (first gap) because, from a microscopic aspect, little change is visible. However, during the G1 stage, the cell is quite active at the biochemical level. The cell is accumulating the building blocks of chromosomal DNA and the associated proteins as well as accumulating sufficient energy reserves to complete the task of replicating each chromosome in the nucleus.

S Phase (Synthesis of DNA)

Throughout interphase, nuclear DNA remains in a semi-condensed chromatin configuration. In the S phase, DNA replication can proceed through the mechanisms that result in the formation of identical pairs of DNA molecules—sister chromatids—that are firmly attached to the centromeric region. The centrosome is duplicated during the S phase. The two centrosomes will give rise to the mitotic spindle, the apparatus that orchestrates the movement of chromosomes during mitosis. At the center of each animal cell, the centrosomes of animal cells are associated with a pair of rod-like objects, the centrioles, which are at right angles to each other. Centrioles help organize cell division. Centrioles are not present in the centrosomes of other eukaryotic species, such as plants and most fungi.

G2 Phase (Second Gap)

In the G2 phase, the cell replenishes its energy stores and synthesizes proteins necessary for chromosome manipulation. Some cell organelles are duplicated, and the cytoskeleton is dismantled to provide resources for the mitotic phase. There may be additional cell growth during G2. The final preparations for the mitotic phase must be completed before the cell is able to enter the first stage of mitosis.

The Mitotic Phase

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.

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Revisit the stages of mitosis at this site.

Mitosis

Mitosis divided into a series of phases—prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase—that result in the division of the cell nucleus (Figure). Mitosis is also called karyokinesis .

Art Connection

This diagram shows the five phases of mitosis and cytokinesis. During prophase, the chromosomes condense and become visible, spindle fibers emerge from the centrosomes, the nuclear envelope breaks down, and the nucleolus disappears. During prometaphase, the chromosomes continue to condense and kinetochores appear at the centromeres. Mitotic spindle microtubules attach to the kinetochores, and centrosomes move toward opposite poles. During metaphase, the mitotic spindle is fully developed, and centrosomes are at opposite poles of the cell. Chromosomes line up at the metaphase plate and each sister chromatid is attached to a spindle fiber originating from the opposite pole. During anaphase, the cohesin proteins that were binding the sister chromatids together break down. The sister chromatids, which are now called chromosomes, move toward opposite poles of the cell. Non-kinetochore spindle fibers lengthen, elongating the cell. During telophase, chromosomes arrive at the opposite poles and begin to decondense. The nuclear envelope reforms. During cytokinesis in animals, a cleavage furrow separates the two daughter cells. In plants, a cell plate separates the two cells.

Mitosis is divided into five stages—prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase. The pictures at the bottom were taken by fluorescence microscopy (hence, the black background) of cells artificially stained by fluorescent dyes: blue fluorescence indicates DNA (chromosomes) and green fluorescence indicates microtubules (spindle apparatus). (credit “mitosis drawings”: modification of work by Mariana Ruiz Villareal; credit “micrographs”: modification of work by Roy van Heesbeen; credit “cytokinesis micrograph”: Wadsworth Center/New York State Department of Health; scale-bar data from Matt Russell)

Which of the following is the correct order of events in mitosis?

  1. Sister chromatids line up at the metaphase plate. The kinetochore becomes attached to the mitotic spindle. The nucleus reforms and the cell divides. Cohesin proteins break down and the sister chromatids separate.
  2. The kinetochore becomes attached to the mitotic spindle. Cohesin proteins break down and the sister chromatids separate. Sister chromatids line up at the metaphase plate. The nucleus reforms and the cell divides.
  3. The kinetochore becomes attached to the cohesin proteins. Sister chromatids line up at the metaphase plate. The kinetochore breaks down and the sister chromatids separate. The nucleus reforms and the cell divides.
  4. The kinetochore becomes attached to the mitotic spindle. Sister chromatids line up at the metaphase plate. Cohesin proteins break down and the sister chromatids separate. The nucleus reforms and the cell divides.

During prophase, the “first phase,” several events must occur to provide access to the chromosomes in the nucleus. The nuclear envelope starts to break into small vesicles, and the Golgi apparatus and endoplasmic reticulum fragment and disperse to the periphery of the cell. The nucleolus disappears. The centrosomes begin to move to opposite poles of the cell. The microtubules that form the basis of the mitotic spindle extend between the centrosomes, pushing them farther apart as the microtubule fibers lengthen. The sister chromatids begin to coil more tightly and become visible under a light microscope.

During prometaphase, many processes that were begun in prophase continue to advance and culminate in the formation of a connection between the chromosomes and cytoskeleton. The remnants of the nuclear envelope disappear. The mitotic spindle continues to develop as more microtubules assemble and stretch across the length of the former nuclear area. Chromosomes become more condensed and visually discrete. Each sister chromatid attaches to spindle microtubules at the centromere via a protein complex called the kinetochore.

During metaphase, all of the chromosomes are aligned in the center of the cell.  This area of alignment is called the metaphase plate. The sister chromatids are still tightly attached to each other. At this time, the chromosomes are maximally condensed.

During anaphase, the sister chromatids at the equatorial plane are split apart at the centromere. Each chromatid, now called a chromosome, is pulled rapidly toward the centrosome to which its microtubule was attached. The cell becomes visibly elongated as the non-kinetochore microtubules slide against each other at the metaphase plate where they overlap.

During telophase, all of the events that set up the duplicated chromosomes for mitosis during the first three phases are reversed. The chromosomes reach the opposite poles and begin to decondense (unravel). The mitotic spindles are broken down into monomers that will be used to assemble cytoskeleton components for each daughter cell. Nuclear envelopes form around chromosomes.

This illustration shows two sister chromatids. Each has a kinetochore at the centromere, and mitotic spindle microtubules radiate from the kinetochore.

During prometaphase, mitotic spindle microtubules from opposite poles attach to each sister chromatid at the kinetochore. In anaphase, the connection between the sister chromatids breaks down, and the microtubules pull the chromosomes toward opposite poles.

Cytokinesis

Cytokinesis, or “cell motion,” is the second main stage of the mitotic phase during which cell division is completed via the physical separation of the cytoplasmic components into two daughter cells. Division is not complete until the cell components have been apportioned and completely separated into the 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.

In cells such as animal cells that lack cell walls, cytokinesis follows the onset of anaphase. A contractile ring composed of actin filaments forms just inside the plasma membrane at the former metaphase plate. The actin filaments pull the equator of the cell inward, forming a fissure. This fissure, or “crack,” is called the cleavage furrow. The furrow deepens as the actin ring contracts, and eventually the membrane is cleaved in two (Figure).

In plant cells, a new cell wall must form between the daughter cells. During interphase, the Golgi apparatus accumulates enzymes, structural proteins, and glucose molecules prior to breaking into vesicles and dispersing throughout the dividing cell. During telophase, these Golgi vesicles are transported on microtubules to form a phragmoplast (a vesicular structure) at the metaphase plate. There, the vesicles fuse and coalesce from the center toward the cell walls; this structure is called a cell plate. As more vesicles fuse, the cell plate enlarges until it merges with the cell walls at the periphery of the cell. Enzymes use the glucose that has accumulated between the membrane layers to build a new cell wall. The Golgi membranes become parts of the plasma membrane on either side of the new cell wall (Figure).

Part a: This illustration shows cytokinesis in a typical animal cell. Part b: Cytokinesis is shown in a typical plant cell. In an animal cell, a contractile ring of actin filaments forms a cleavage furrow that divides the cell in two. In a plant cell, Golgi vesicles coalesce at the metaphase plate. A cell plate grows from the center outward, and the vesicles form a plasma membrane that divides the cytoplasm.

During cytokinesis in animal cells, a ring of actin filaments forms at the metaphase plate. The ring contracts, forming a cleavage furrow, which divides the cell in two. In plant cells, Golgi vesicles coalesce at the former metaphase plate, forming a phragmoplast. A cell plate formed by the fusion of the vesicles of the phragmoplast grows from the center toward the cell walls, and the membranes of the vesicles fuse to form a plasma membrane that divides the cell in two.

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 (Figure).

The cell cycle is shown in a circular graphic, with four stages. The S stage accounts for about 40 percent of the cycle. The G2 stage accounts for about 19 percent. Mitosis accounts for 2 percent, and G1 accounts for 39 percent. An arrow is shown exiting the G1 stage that points to the G0 stage outside the circle, in which cells are not actively dividing. Another arrow points from the G0 stage back into the G1 stage, where cells may re-enter the cycle.

Cells that are not actively preparing to divide enter an alternate phase called G0. In some cases, this is a temporary condition until triggered to enter G1. In other cases, the cell will remain in G0 permanently.

 

 

Section Summary

The cell cycle is an orderly sequence of events. Cells on the path to cell division proceed through a series of precisely timed and carefully regulated stages. In eukaryotes, the cell cycle consists of a long preparatory period, called interphase. Interphase is divided into G1, S, and G2 phases. The mitotic phase begins with karyokinesis (mitosis), which consists of five stages: prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase. The final stage of the mitotic phase is cytokinesis, during which the cytoplasmic components of the daughter cells are separated either by an actin ring (animal cells) or by cell plate formation (plant cells).

Art Connections

Figure Which of the following is the correct order of events in mitosis?

  1. Sister chromatids line up at the metaphase plate. The kinetochore becomes attached to the mitotic spindle. The nucleus reforms and the cell divides. Cohesin proteins break down and the sister chromatids separate.
  2. The kinetochore becomes attached to the mitotic spindle. Cohesin proteins break down and the sister chromatids separate. Sister chromatids line up at the metaphase plate. The nucleus reforms and the cell divides.
  3. The kinetochore becomes attached to the cohesin proteins. Sister chromatids line up at the metaphase plate. The kinetochore breaks down and the sister chromatids separate. The nucleus reforms and the cell divides.
  4. The kinetochore becomes attached to the mitotic spindle. Sister chromatids line up at the metaphase plate. Cohesin proteins break down and the sister chromatids separate. The nucleus reforms and the cell divides.

Hint:

Figure D. The kinetochore becomes attached to the mitotic spindle. Sister chromatids line up at the metaphase plate. Cohesin proteins break down and the sister chromatids separate. The nucleus reforms and the cell divides.

Review Questions

Chromosomes are duplicated during what stage of the cell cycle?

A.  G1 phase

B.  S phase

C.  prophase

D.  prometaphase

Hint:

B

Which of the following events does NOT occur during the stages of interphase?

A.  DNA duplication

B.  organelle duplication

C.  increase in cell size

D.  separation of sister chromatids

Hint:

D

The mitotic spindles arise from which cell structure?

A.  centromere

B.  centrosome

C.  kinetochore

D.  cleavage furrow

Hint:

B

Attachment of the mitotic spindle fibers to the kinetochores is a characteristic of which stage of mitosis?

A.  prophase

B.  prometaphase

C.  metaphase

D.  anaphase

Hint:

B

Unpacking of chromosomes and the formation of a new nuclear envelope is a characteristic of which stage of mitosis?

A.  prometaphase

B.  metaphase

C.  anaphase

D.  telophase

Hint:

D

Separation of the sister chromatids is a characteristic of which stage of mitosis?

A.  prometaphase

B.  metaphase

C.  anaphase

D.  telophase

Hint:

C

The chromosomes become visible under a light microscope during which stage of mitosis?

A.  prophase

B.  prometaphase

C.  metaphase

D.  anaphase

Hint:

A

The fusing of Golgi vesicles at the metaphase plate of dividing plant cells forms what structure?

A.  cell plate

B.  actin ring

C.  cleavage furrow

D.  mitotic spindle

Hint:

A

Free Response

Briefly describe the events that occur in each phase of interphase.

Hint:

During G1, the cell increases in size, the genomic DNA is assessed for damage, and the cell stockpiles energy reserves and the components to synthesize DNA. During the S phase, the chromosomes, the centrosomes, and the centrioles (animal cells) duplicate. During the G2 phase, the cell recovers from the S phase, continues to grow, duplicates some organelles, and dismantles other organelles.

Chemotherapy drugs such as vincristine and colchicine disrupt mitosis by binding to tubulin (the subunit of microtubules) and interfering with microtubule assembly and disassembly. Exactly what mitotic structure is targeted by these drugs and what effect would that have on cell division?

Hint:

The mitotic spindle is formed of microtubules. Microtubules are polymers of the protein tubulin; therefore, it is the mitotic spindle that is disrupted by these drugs. Without a functional mitotic spindle, the chromosomes will not be sorted or separated during mitosis. The cell will arrest in mitosis and die.

Describe the similarities and differences between the cytokinesis mechanisms found in animal cells versus those in plant cells.

Hint:

There are very few similarities between animal cell and plant cell cytokinesis. In animal cells, a ring of actin fibers is formed around the periphery of the cell at the former metaphase plate (cleavage furrow). The actin ring contracts inward, pulling the plasma membrane toward the center of the cell until the cell is pinched in two. In plant cells, a new cell wall must be formed between the daughter cells. Due to the rigid cell walls of the parent cell, contraction of the middle of the cell is not possible. Instead, a phragmoplast first forms. Subsequently, a cell plate is formed in the center of the cell at the former metaphase plate. The cell plate is formed from Golgi vesicles that contain enzymes, proteins, and glucose. The vesicles fuse and the enzymes build a new cell wall from the proteins and glucose. The cell plate grows toward and eventually fuses with the cell wall of the parent cell.

List some reasons why a cell that has just completed cytokinesis might enter the G0 phase instead of the G1 phase.

Hint:

Many cells temporarily enter G0 until they reach maturity. Some cells are only triggered to enter G1 when the organism needs to increase that particular cell type. Some cells only reproduce following an injury to the tissue. Some cells never divide once they reach maturity.

What cell cycle events will be affected in a cell that produces mutated (non-functional) cohesin protein?

Hint:

If cohesin is not functional, chromosomes are not packaged after DNA replication in the S phase of interphase. It is likely that the proteins of the centromeric region, such as the kinetochore, would not form. Even if the mitotic spindle fibers could attach to the chromatids without packing, the chromosomes would not be sorted or separated during mitosis.