Study Notes on Cell Cycle and Cell Division For CBSE Class XI (Biology)
Are you aware that all organisms, even the
largest, start their life from a single cell?
You may wonder how a single cell then goes on to form such large
organisms. Growth and reproduction are characteristics of cells, indeed of
all living organisms. All cells reproduce by dividing into two, with each
parental cell giving rise to two daughter cells each time they divide. These
newly formed daughter cells can themselves grow and divide, giving rise to a
new cell population that is formed by the growth and division of a single
parental cell and its progeny. In other words, such cycles of growth and
division allow a single cell to form a structure consisting of millions of
Cell division is a very important process in all living organisms.
During the division of a cell, DNA replication and cell growth also take
place. All these processes, i.e., cell division, DNA replication, and cell
growth, hence, have to take place in a coordinated way to ensure correct
division and formation of progeny cells containing intact genomes. The
sequence of events by which a cell duplicates its genome, synthesises the
other constituents of the cell and eventually divides into two daughter
cells is termed cell cycle. Although cell growth (in terms of cytoplasmic
increase) is a continuous process, DNA synthesis occurs only during one
specific stage in the cell cycle. The replicated chromosomes (DNA) are then
distributed to daughter nuclei by a complex series of events during cell
division. These events are themselves under genetic control.
Phases of Cell Cycle
A typical eukaryotic cell cycle is illustrated by human cells in
culture. These cells divide once in approximately every 24 hours (Figure
However, this duration of cell cycle can vary from organism to organism
and also from cell type to cell type. Yeast for example, can progress
through the cell cycle in only about 90 minutes.
The cell cycle is divided into two basic phases:
M Phase (Mitosis phase)
The M Phase represents the phase when the actual cell division or mitosis
occurs and the interphase represents the phase between two successive M
phases. It is significant to note that in the 24 hour average duration of
cell cycle of a human cell, cell division proper lasts for only about an
hour. The interphase lasts more than 95% of the duration of cell cycle. The
M Phase starts with the nuclear division, corresponding to the separation of
daughter chromosomes (karyokinesis) and usually ends with division of
cytoplasm (cytokinesis). The interphase, though called the resting phase, is
the time during which the cell is preparing for division by undergoing both
cell growth and DNA replication in an orderly manner.
How do plants and animals continue to grow all their lives? Do
all cells in a plant divide all the time? Do you think all cells
continue to divide in all plants and animals? Can you tell the name
and the location of tissues having cells that divide all their life
in higher plants? Do animals have similar meristematic tissues?
The interphase is divided into three further phases:
G1 phase (Gap 1)
S phase (Synthesis)
G2 phase (Gap 2)
G1 phase corresponds to the interval between mitosis and initiation of
DNA replication. During G1 phase the cell is metabolically active and
continuously grows but does not replicate its DNA. S or synthesis phase
marks the period during which DNA synthesis or replication takes place.
During this time the amount of DNA per cell doubles. If the initial amount
of DNA is denoted as 2C then it increases to 4C. However, there is no
increase in the chromosome number; if the cell had diploid or 2n number of
chromosomes at G1, even after S phase the number of chromosomes remains the
same, i.e., 2n. In animal cells, during the S phase, DNA replication begins
in the nucleus, and the centriole duplicates in the cytoplasm. During the G2
phase, proteins are synthesised in preparation for mitosis while cell growth
Some cells in the adult animals do not appear to exhibit division (e.g.,
heart cells) and many other cells divide only occasionally, as needed to
replace cells that have been lost because of injury or cell death. These
cells that do not divide further exit G1 phase to enter an inactive stage
called quiescent stage (G0) of the cell cycle. Cells in this stage remain
metabolically active but no longer proliferate unless called on to do so
depending on the requirement of the organism. In animals, mitotic cell
division is only seen in the diploid somatic cells. Against this, the plants
can show mitotic divisions in both haploid and diploid cells. From your
recollection of examples of alternation of generations in plants (Chapter 3)
identify plant species and stages at which mitosis is seen in haploid cells.
You have studied mitosis in onion root tip cells. It has 14
chromosomes in each cell. Can you tell how many chromosomes will the
cell have at G1 phase, after S phase, and after M phase? Also, what
will be the DNA content of the cells at G1, after S and at G2, if
the content after M phase is 2C?
This is the most dramatic period of the cell cycle, involving a major
reorganisation of virtually all components of the cell. Since the number of
chromosomes in the parent and progeny cells is the same, it is also called
as equational division. Though for convenience mitosis has been divided into
four stages of nuclear division, it is very essential to understand that
cell division is a progressive process and very clear-cut lines cannot be
drawn between various stages.
Mitosis is divided into the following four stages:
Prophase which is the first stage of mitosis follows the S and G2 phases
of interphase. In the S and G2 phases the new DNA molecules formed are not
distinct but interwined. Prophase is marked by the initiation of
condensation of chromosomal material. The chromosomal material becomes
untangled during the process of chromatin condensation (Figure 10.2 a). The
centriole, which had undergone duplication during S phase of interphase, now
begins to move towards opposite poles of the cell.
The completion of prophase can thus be marked by the following
Chromosomal material condenses to form compact mitotic chromosomes.
Chromosomes are seen to be composed of two chromatids attached together at
Initiation of the assembly of mitotic spindle, the microtubules, the
proteinaceous components of the cell cytoplasm help in the process.
Cells at the end of prophase, when viewed under the microscope, do not
show golgi complexes, endoplasmic reticulum, nucleolus and the nuclear
The complete disintegration of the nuclear envelope marks the start of the
second phase of mitosis, hence the chromosomes are spread through the
cytoplasm of the cell.
By this stage, condensation of chromosomes is completed and they can be
observed clearly under the microscope. This then, is the stage at which
morphology of chromosomes is most easily studied. At this stage, metaphase
chromosome is made up of two sister chromatids, which are held together by
the centromere (Figure 10.2 b). Small disc-shaped structures at the surface
of the centromeres are called kinetochores. These structures serve as the
sites of attachment of spindle fibres (formed by the spindle fibres) to the
chromosomes that are moved into position at the centre of the cell. Hence,
the metaphase is characterised by all the chromosomes coming to lie at the
equator with one chromatid of each chromosome connected by its kinetochore
to spindle fibres from one pole and its sister chromatid connected by its
kinetochore to spindle fibres from the opposite pole (Figure 10.2 b). The
plane of alignment of the chromosomes at metaphase is referred to as the
The key features of metaphase are:
Spindle fibres attach to kinetochores of chromosomes.
Chromosomes are moved to spindle equator and get aligned along metaphase
plate through spindle fibres to both poles.
At the onset of anaphase, each chromosome arranged at the metaphase
plate is split simultaneously and the two daughter chromatids, now referred
to as chromosomes of the future daughter nuclei, begin their migration
towards the two opposite poles. As each chromosome moves away from the
equatorial plate, the centromere of each chromosome is towards the pole and
hence at the leading edge, with the arms of the chromosome trailing behind
(Figure 10.2 c).
Thus, anaphase stage is characterised by the following key events:
Centromeres split and chromatids separate.
Chromatids move to opposite poles.
At the beginning of the final stage of mitosis, i.e., telophase, the
chromosomes that have reached their respective poles decondense and lose
their individuality. The individual chromosomes can no longer be seen and
chromatin material tends to collect in a mass in the two poles (Figure 10.2
This is the stage which shows the following key events:
Chromosomes cluster at opposite spindle poles and their
identity is lost as discrete elements.
Nuclear envelope assembles around the chromosome clusters.
Nucleolus, golgi complex and ER reform..... [...]