The Division of the Nucleus: Exploring Mitotic Cell Division

Introduction

Human cells undergo a process called mitotic cell division for various reasons, such as embryonic development, growth, injury repair, tumor formation, cell regeneration, and cell differentiation. This process involves two main stages: mitosis (division of the nucleus) and cytokinesis (division of the cytoplasm). Let’s explore these stages in detail.

Mitosis: Division of the Nucleus

After mitosis is complete, the single cell becomes two cells, each containing a nucleus with a set of identical DNA. This is made possible because the cell separates sister chromatids during mitosis and distributes them evenly into the two nuclei. Let’s break down the phases of mitotic cell division:

Prophase

  • Chromatids condense, becoming visible under a microscope.
  • Spindle fibers emerge from centrosomes.
  • Nuclear envelope breaks down, and the nucleolus disappears.

Illustration of a cell in prophase

Prometaphase

  • Chromatids continue to condense.
  • Mitotic spindle microtubules attach to the chromatids.
  • Centrosomes move towards opposite poles of the cell.

Illustration of a cell in prometaphase

Metaphase

  • Mitotic spindle is fully developed.
  • Centrosomes are positioned at opposite poles of the cell.
  • Chromatids align in the center (known as the metaphase plate).
  • Each sister chromatid attaches to a spindle fiber originating from opposite poles.

Illustration of a cell in metaphase

Anaphase

  • Sister chromatids are pulled towards opposite poles of the cell.
  • The cell elongates due to the action of spindle fibers.

Illustration of a cell in anaphase

Telophase

  • Single chromatids reach opposite poles of the cell.
  • Nuclear envelope materials surround the chromatids and begin to assemble.
  • Chromatids start to decondense.
  • The mitotic spindle begins to break down.
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Illustration of a cell in telophase

After telophase, mitosis is complete as the nucleus has divided into two identical nuclei.

Cytokinesis: Division of the Cytoplasm

Cytokinesis follows the completion of mitosis. During this stage:

  • A contractile ring of actin filaments contracts, creating a cleavage furrow.
  • The furrow deepens until the cell membrane is cleaved into two.
  • Two daughter cells are produced, which enter the G1 phase of interphase.

Illustration of a cell undergoing cytokinesis

Conclusion

Mitotic cell division is a continuous process, comprising several interconnected phases. Just as a day is divided into morning, afternoon, evening, and night, the cell cycle progresses through various stages. The length of the cell cycle can vary significantly, depending on the cell type and external factors. By understanding the intricacies of mitotic cell division, we can gain insight into the complex mechanisms that drive growth and development.

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