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Cell division

See also: Cell cycle
File:Three cell growth types.png
Three types of cell division

Cell division is the process by which a parent cell divides into two or more daughter cells.[1] Cell division usually occurs as part of a larger cell cycle. In eukaryotes, there are two distinct types of cell division: a vegetative division, whereby each daughter cell is genetically identical to the parent cell (mitosis),[2] and a reductive cell division, whereby the number of chromosomes in the daughter cells is reduced by half, to produce haploid gametes (meiosis). Meiosis results in four haploid daughter cells by undergoing one round of DNA replication followed by two divisions: homologous chromosomes are separated in the first division, and sister chromatids are separated in the second division.[3] Both of these cell division cycles are in sexually reproducing organisms at some point in their life cycle, and both are believed to be present in the last eukaryotic common ancestor[4] Prokaryotes also undergo a vegetative cell division known as binary fission, where their genetic material is segregated equally into two daughter cells. All cell divisions, regardless of organism, are preceded by a single round of DNA replication.

For simple unicellular organisms[Note 1] such as the amoeba, one cell division is equivalent to reproduction – an entire new organism is created. On a larger scale, mitotic cell division can create progeny from multicellular organisms, such as plants that grow from cuttings. Cell division also enables sexually reproducing organisms to develop from the one-celled zygote, which itself was produced by cell division from gametes. And after growth, cell division allows for continual construction and repair of the organism.[5] A human being's body experiences about 10,000 trillion cell divisions in a lifetime.[6]

Cell division has been modeled by finite subdivision rules.[7]

The primary concern of cell division is the maintenance of the original cell's genome. Before division can occur, the genomic information that is stored in chromosomes must be replicated, and the duplicated genome must be separated cleanly between cells. A great deal of cellular infrastructure is involved in keeping genomic information consistent between "generations".

Daughter cells of cell divisions, in early embryonic development, contribute unequally to the generation of adult tissues.


Image of the mitotic spindle in a human cell showing microtubules in green, chromosomes (DNA) in blue, and kinetochores in red.

Cells are classified into two main categories: simple, non-nucleated prokaryotic cells, and complex, nucleated eukaryotic cells. By dint of their structural differences, eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells do not divide in the same way. Also, the pattern of cell division that transforms eukaryotic stem cells into gametes (sperm cells in males or ova – egg cells – in females) is different from that of the somatic cell division in the cells of the body.

File:Time-lapse video of dividing cells.gif
Cell division over 42 hours. The cells were directly imaged in the cell culture vessel, using non-invasive quantitative phase contrast time-lapse microscopy.[8]


Multicellular organisms replace worn-out cells through cell division. In some animals, however, cell division eventually halts. In humans this occurs on average, after 52 divisions, known as the Hayflick limit. The cell is then referred to as senescent. Cells stop dividing because the telomeres, protective bits of DNA on the end of a chromosome required for replication, shorten with each copy, eventually being consumed. Cancer cells, on the other hand, are not thought to degrade in this way, if at all. An enzyme called telomerase, present in large quantities in cancerous cells, rebuilds the telomeres, allowing division to continue indefinitely.

See also


  1. Single cell organisms. See discussion within lead of the article on microorganism.


  1. Robert.S Hine, ed. (2008). Oxford Dictionary Biology (6th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-19-920462-5. 
  2. Griffiths, Anthony J.F.; Wessler, Susan R.; Carroll, Sean B.; Doebley, John (2012). Introduction to Genetic Analysis (10 ed.). New York: W.H. Freeman and Company. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-4292-2943-2. 
  3. Griffiths JF, Gelbart WM, Lewontin RC, Wessler SR, Suzuki DT, Miller JH (2005). Introduction to Genetic Analysis. New York: W.H. Freeman and Co. pp. 34–40, 473–476, 626–629. ISBN 0-7167-4939-4. 
  4. Ramesh MA, Malik SB, Logsdon JM (January 2005). "A phylogenomic inventory of meiotic genes; evidence for sex in Giardia and an early eukaryotic origin of meiosis". Curr. Biol. 15 (2): 185–91. PMID 15668177. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.01.003. 
  5. Maton, Anthea; Hopkins, Jean Johnson, Susan LaHart, David, Quon Warner, David, Wright, Jill D (1997). Cells: Building Blocks of Life. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. pp. 70–74. ISBN 0-13-423476-6. 
  6. Quammen, David (April 2008). "Contagious cancer: The evolution of a killer". Harper's 316 (1895): 42. Retrieved 24 September 2012. 
  7. J. W. Cannon, W. Floyd and W. Parry. Crystal growth, biological cell growth and geometry. Pattern Formation in Biology, Vision and Dynamics, pp. 65–82. World Scientific, 2000. ISBN 981-02-3792-8,ISBN 978-981-02-3792-9.
  8. Phase Holographic Imaging. Cell Division

Further reading and reference sources

External links

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