Chromosomes, Cell Cycle and Cell Division

Cell division is necessary for the reproduction, growth and repair of an organism.

Cell division must be initiated by a reproductive signal. Cell division consists of three steps: replication of the genetic material (DNA), segregation of the two DNA molecules to separate portions of the cell, and cytokinesis, or division of the cytoplasm.

In prokaryotes, cellular DNA is a single molecule or chromosome. Prokaryotes reproduce by cell fission.

In eukaryotes, cells divide by either mitosis or meiosis.

The mitotic cell cycle has two main phases: interphase (during which cells are not dividing) and mitosis (when cells are dividing).

During most of the cell cycle, the cell is in interphase, which is divided into three subphases: S, G1, and G2. DNA is replicated during the S phase.

Cyclin-Cdk complexes regulate the passage of cells through checkpoints in the cell cycle. The most important one is the R point in G1, which determines whether the rest of the cycle will proceed.

In addition to the internal cyclin-Cdk complexes, controls external to the cell, such as growth factors and hormones, can also stimulate the cell to begin a division cycle.

A eukaryotic chromosome contains a DNA molecule bound to proteins in a complex called chromatin. At mitosis, the replicated chromatids are held together at the centromere. Each chromatid consists of one double-stranded DNA molecule.

During interphase, the DNA in chromatin is wound around cores of histones to form nucleosomes. DNA folds over and over again, packing itself within the nucleus. During mitosis or meiosis, it folds even more.

After DNA is replicated during the S phase, the first sign of mitosis is the separation of the replicated centrosomes which initiate microtubule formation for the spindle.

Mitosis can be divided into several phases, called prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase and telophase.

During prophase, the chromosomes condense and appear as paired chromatids and the spindle forms.

During prometaphase, the chromosomes move toward the middle of the spindle. In metaphase, they gather at the middle of the cell with their centromeres on the equatorial plate. At the end of metaphase, the centromeres holding the sister chromatids together separate, and during anaphase, each chromatid, now called the daughter chromosome, migrates to its pole along the microtubule track.

Cohesin holds sister chromatids together from the time they are formed in DNA replication until the onset of anaphase. Separin hydrolyzes cohesin when an inhibitory subunit, securin, is hydrolyzed.

During telophase, the chromosomes become less condensed. The nuclear envelopes and nucleoli re-form, thus producing two nuclei whose chromosomes are identical to each other and to those of the cell that began the cycle.

Nuclear division is usually followed by cytokinesis. Animalcell cytoplasm usually divides by a furrowing of the plasma membrane, caused by the contraction of cytoplasmic microfilaments.In plant cells, cytokinesis is accomplished by vesicle fusion and the synthesis of new cell wall material.

The cell cycle can repeat itself many times, forming a clone ofgenetically identical cells.

Asexual reproduction produces a new organism that is genetically identical to the parent. Any genetic variety is the result of mutations.

In sexual reproduction, two haploid gametes—one from each parent—unite in fertilization to form a genetically unique diploid zygote.

In sexually reproducing organisms, certain cells in the adult undergo meiosis, a process by which a diploid cell produces haploid gametes. Each gamete contains a random selection of one of each pair of homologous chromosomes from the parent.

The number, shapes and sizes of the chromosomes constitute the karyotype of an organism.

Meiosis reduces the chromosome number from diploid to haploid, ensures that each haploid cell contains one member of each chromosome pair, and results in genetically diverse products. It consists of two nuclear divisions.

During prophase I of the first meiotic division, homologous chromosomes pair up with each other, and material may be exchanged between the two homologs by crossing over. In metaphase I, the paired homologs line up at the equatorial plate.

In anaphase I, entire chromosomes, each with two chromatids, migrate to the poles. By the end of meiosis I, there are two nuclei, each with the haploid number of chromosomes.

In meiosis II, the sister chromatids separate. No DNA replication precedes this division, which in other aspects is similar to mitosis. The result of meiosis is four cells, each with a haploid chromosome content.

Both crossing over during prophase I and the random selection of which homolog of a pair migrates to which pole during anaphase I ensure that the genetic composition of each haploid gamete is different from that of the parent cell and from that of the other gametes. The more chromosome pairs there are in a diploid cell, the greater the diversity of chromosome combinations generated by meiosis.

In nondisjunction, one member of a homologous pair of chromosomes fails to separate from the other and both go to the same pole. Pairs of homologous chromosomes may also fail to stick together when they should. These events may lead to one gamete with an extra chromosome and another lacking that chromosome.

The union of a gamete with an abnormal chromosome number with a normal haploid gamete at fertilization results in aneuploidy and genetic abnormalities that are invariably harmful or lethal to the organism.

Polyploid organisms can have difficulty in cell division. Natural and artificially produced polyploids underlie modern agriculture.

Cells may die by necrosis, or they may self-destruct by apoptosis, a genetically programmed series of events that includes the detachment of the cell from its neighbors and the fragmentation of its nuclear DNA.

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