What Controls Cell Division?

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  • 0:04 The Cell Cycle
  • 1:34 Stop Signals
  • 2:47 Go Signals
  • 3:14 When Cell Division…
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bridgett Payseur

Bridgett has a PhD in microbiology and immunology and teaches college biology.

One cell can divide to create two new cells. During its life cycle, a cell will pass through several checkpoints that tell it whether it can continue dividing or whether it needs to stop. These checkpoints ensure cells stay healthy when they replicate.

The Cell Cycle

The cell cycle describes a cell's life from the time it is first formed to the time it splits into two new cells. The cell cycle is divided into two main stages, the mitotic stage and the interphase stage. But in typical science fashion, these two main stages are further broken down.

The mitotic stage describes when a cell is actively replicating. During mitosis, the nucleus, which holds the cell's genetic information, is divided. During cytokinesis, the rest of the cell is divided. The result is two newly formed, identical cells.

The main stage of the cell cycle is called interphase. Interphase takes up most of the cell cycle - on average, 90% of a cell's life is spent in interphase. During this time, the cell lives its life as normal, performing all of its usual functions. It also begins to prepare for cell division, doubling in size and replicating its DNA.

Interphase is broken down into three main stages: G1, S, and G2. During the S phase, the cell's DNA is copied so that each new cell has all the information it needs. G1 and G2 phases get their name from being 'gaps,' or times when the cell takes a break from replicating. These two phases are important for the control of cell division. In order for a cell to continue through the cell cycle, it must pass certain criteria during the gap phases.

Stop Signals

During the cell cycle, the cell has to stop at a few different checkpoints. This gives the cell time to make sure everything is going well before it continues on. It's the same concept as stopping at a stop sign and waiting until it's safe to proceed before driving on.

The G1 phase is the first stop sign. The cell checks to make sure that the cell has grown enough to divide. If the cell passes this checkpoint, it will move onto the S phase and start copying its DNA. If the cell is not able to move forward in the cell cycle, it might enter a phase called G0, meaning it is no longer moving forward with replication. Some cells may remain in G0 permanently, which means that they will completely stop replicating.

There is also a checkpoint at the end of the G2 phase. This is one last chance for the cell to make sure it has completely replicated its DNA and is ready to move into the mitotic phase. The final checkpoint occurs as the cell is dividing. During mitosis, the DNA must line up in the middle of the cell so it can be distributed equally between the new cells. If the DNA isn't properly lined up, cell division will stall until the problem is fixed.

Go Signals

Just as there are stop signs that tell traffic to wait, there are also traffic signals that tell traffic to go. This is the same in the cell cycle. When a cell has successfully gotten through the checkpoints, these green lights help encourage the cell to continue dividing. Maturation promoting factor (MPF) is a protein that builds up as the cell cycle progresses to help continue the process of division.

When Cell Division Doesn't Work

Cell division is incredibly important to the life of a human. If cell division doesn't happen efficiently enough, growth may be restricted. Cell division is essential for helping to replace dead cells as well, to keep the body functioning.

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