Cell cycle is an ordered series of events which involve cell growth and division that produces two daughter cells. Cells on the path to cell division proceed through a series of precisely timed and carefully regulated stages of growth, DNA replication, and division that produces two identical (clone) cells.

To divide, a cell must complete several important tasks: it must grow, copy its genetic material (DNA), and physically split into two daughter cells. Cells perform these tasks in an organized, predictable series of steps that make up the cell cycle. The cell cycle is a cycle, rather than a linear pathway, because at the end of each go-round, the two daughter cells can start the exact same process over again from the beginning.

In eukaryotic cells, or cells with a nucleus, the stages of the cell cycle are divided into two major phases:

  1. Interphase
  2. mitotic (M) phase.

During interphase, the cell grows and DNA is replicated.

During the mitotic phase or the M phase, the replicated DNA and cytoplasmic contents are separated, and the cell divides forming two new cells.

Interphase

During interphase, the cell undergoes normal growth processes and also prepares itself for division. In order for a cell to move from interphase into the mitotic or the M phase, many internal and external conditions must be fulfilled.

Interphase can be grouped into three stages: G1, S, and G2.

G1: During G1 phase, also called the first gap phase, the cell grows physically larger, copies organelles, and makes the molecular building blocks it will need in later steps.

In majority of the cases, cells grow before division. However, in certain situations during development, cells may intentionally split themselves up into smaller and smaller pieces over successive rounds of cell division. For instance, this happens in very early development of an African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) embryo.

S phase

In S phase, the cell synthesizes a complete copy of the DNA in its nucleus. It also duplicates a microtubule-organizing structure called the centrosome. The centrosomes help separate DNA during M phase.

G2 phase: During the second gap phase, or G2 phase, the cell grows more, makes proteins and organelles, and begins to reorganize its contents in preparation for mitosis. G2 phase ends when mitosis begins.

G1 Phase (First Gap)

The first stage of interphase is called the G1 phase (first gap) because, from a microscopic point of view, only a very little amount of change is visible.

However, if considered the biochemical level, during the G1 stage, the cell is quite active. The cell is accumulating the building blocks of chromosomal DNA and the associated proteins as well as accumulating sufficient energy reserves to complete the task of replicating each chromosome in the nucleus.

S Phase (Synthesis of DNA)

Throughout interphase, nuclear DNA remains in a semi-condensed chromatin configuration. In the S phase, DNA replication can proceed through the mechanisms that result in the formation of identical pairs of DNA molecules—sister chromatids—that are firmly attached to the centromeric region. The centrosome is duplicated during the S phase. The two centrosomes will give rise to the mitotic spindle, the apparatus that orchestrates the movement of chromosomes during mitosis. At the center of each animal cell, the centrosomes of animal cells are associated with a pair of rod-like objects, the centrioles, which are at right angles to each other. Centrioles help organize cell division. Centrioles are not present in the centrosomes of other eukaryotic species, such as plants and most fungi.

G2 Phase (Second Gap)

In the G2 phase, the cell replenishes its energy stores and synthesizes proteins necessary for chromosome manipulation. Some cell organelles are duplicated, and the cytoskeleton is dismantled to provide resources for the mitotic phase. There may be additional cell growth during G2. The final preparations for the mitotic phase must be completed before the cell is able to enter the first stage of mitosis.

The Mitotic Phase

The mitotic phase is a multistep process during which the duplicated chromosomes are aligned, separated, and moved into two new, identical daughter cells. The first portion of the mitotic phase is called karyokinesis, or nuclear division. The second portion of the mitotic phase, called cytokinesis, is the physical separation of the cytoplasmic components into the two daughter cells.

Karyokinesis (Mitosis)

Karyokinesis, also known as mitosis, is divided into a series of phases—prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase—that result in the division of the cell nucleus.

G0 Phase

Not all cells adhere to the classic cell cycle pattern in which a newly formed daughter cell immediately enters the preparatory phases of interphase, closely followed by the mitotic phase. Cells in G0 phase are not actively preparing to divide. The cell is in a quiescent (inactive) stage that occurs when cells exit the cell cycle. Some cells enter G0 temporarily until an external signal triggers the onset of G1. Other cells that never or rarely divide, such as mature cardiac muscle and nerve cells, remain in G0 permanently.