Parent & Daughter Cells in Mitosis

Instructor: Dominic Corsini
How do cells grow? Why are you bigger than a newborn baby? This lesson helps answer those questions via an investigation into the parent and daughter cells of mitosis. A lesson summary and brief quiz are also included.

What is Mitosis?

Did you know that you were once one cell big? In fact, everyone once existed as a single cell for about 30 minutes. Then, you divided and became two cells big, then 4, 8, 16, 32, and so on, until today when you're literally made of millions of cells. This change was all made possible by mitosis. Mitosis is the process in which one cell replicates itself into two new identical cells. The original cell is referred to as a parent cell, and the two new cells are called daughter cells. Let's investigate this concept a little further.

How Parent Cells become Daughter Cells

The story of cell division is really a story about our genetic material, our DNA. You see, before a cell can divide, it needs to replicate its DNA. This assures each new cell contains the same DNA as the original cell did. DNA replication occurs inside our parent cell during a period called S phase. S phase, which is short for synthesis phase, is a vital period of time because it's when DNA is replicated into two identical copies. These two identical copies, our daughter cells, need to have the same genetic information if they are to function properly.

Shortly following S phase, the cell enters a period of growth and division. This division phase is called mitosis, which we mentioned above. During mitosis our replicated DNA condenses to form chromosomes, which are tightly coiled segments of DNA. These chromosomes are separated, the sides of our parent cell begin to pinch together, and the cell is split in half. That might sound complicated, but it's actually pretty simple. Here's an illustration to assist.

Overview of Mitosis
Overview of Mitosis

In this picture, we begin with a parent cell in which DNA being replicated. This represents the aforementioned S phase. In it, DNA is depicted as chromosomes for visualization purposes only. DNA in S phase isn't condensed into chromosomes yet, but it's difficult to see actual DNA inside a cell, so they're showing you chromosomes that are easier to spot.

Once the DNA has been replicated the cell enters mitosis. Here you'll notice our chromosomes, which are the replicated DNA, are being separated. During the later part of mitosis you can even see the sides of our cell beginning to pinch together. This is an indication the cell is about to divide.

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