How The Cell Cycle Works

The cell cycle consists of four distinct phases: G1 phase, S phase, G2 phase (collectively known as interphase) and M phase. M phase is itself composed of two tightly coupled processes: mitosis, in which the cell's chromosomes are divided between the two daughter cells, and cytokinesis, in which the cell's cytoplasm divides forming distinct cells. Activation of each phase is dependent on the proper progression and completion of the previous one. Cells that have temporarily or reversibly stopped dividing are said to have entered a state of quiescence called G0 phase.


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M phase

The relatively brief M phase consists of nuclear division (mitosis) and cytoplasmic division (cytokinesis). In plants and algae, cytokinesis is accompanied by the formation of a new cell wall.


After M phase, the daughter cells each begin interphase of a new cycle. Although the various stages of interphase are not usually morphologically distinguishable, each phase of the cell cycle has a distinct set of specialized biochemical processes that prepare the cell for initiation of cell division.
The first phase within interphase, from the end of the previous M phase till the beginning of DNA synthesis is called G1 (G indicating gap or growth). During this phase the biosynthetic activities of the cell, which had been considerably slowed down during M phase, resume at a high rate. This phase is marked by synthesis of various enzymes that are required in S phase, mainly those needed for DNA replication. Duration of G1 is highly variable, even among different cells of the same species.

S phase

The ensuing S phase starts when DNA synthesis commences; when it is complete, all of the chromosomes have been replicated, i.e., each chromosome has two (sister) chromatids. Thus, during this phase, the amount of DNA in the cell has effectively doubled, though the ploidy of the cell remains the same. Rates of RNA transcription and protein synthesis are very low during this phase. An exception to this is histone production, most of which occurs during the S phase.The duration of S phase is relatively constant among cells of the same species.

G2 phase

The cell then enters the G2 phase, which lasts until the cell enters mitosis. Again, significant protein synthesis occurs during this phase, mainly involving the production of microtubules, which are required during the process of mitosis. Inhibition of protein synthesis during G2 phase prevents the cell from undergoing mitosis.

G0 phase
The term "post-mitotic" is sometimes used to refer to both quiescent and senescent cells. Nonproliferative cells in multicellular eukaryotes generally enter the quiescent G0 state from G1 and may remain quiescent for long periods of time, possibly indefinitely (as is often the case for neurons). This is very common for cells that are fully differentiated. Cellular senescence is a state that occurs in response to DNA damage or degradation that would make a cell's progeny nonviable; it is often a biochemical alternative to the self-destruction of such a damaged cell by apoptosis. Some cell types in mature organisms, such as parenchymal cells of the liver and kidney, enter the G0 phase semi-permanently and can only be induced to begin dividing again under very specific circumstances; other types, such as epithelial cells, continue to divide throughout an organism's life.

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