What Is Cell Division? - Stages & Process

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  • 0:01 Definition of Cell Division
  • 1:12 Mitosis
  • 1:37 Prophase & Metaphase
  • 2:12 Anaphase & Telophase
  • 2:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Lynn Swafford

Lynn has a BS and MS in biology and has taught many college biology courses.

Some organisms consist of only one cell, while others, like you, are made up of trillions of cells. All these cells can produce more cells by undergoing cell division. Learn about the different steps of cell division in this lesson.

Definition of Cell Division

In order to make new cells, all cells must undergo cell division, or cell reproduction. In prokaryotes, single-celled organisms without a nucleus, cell division occurs by binary fission. This process is very simple and includes the duplication of chromosomal DNA (DNA replication) followed by cytokinesis or the splitting of the cell into two new cells. Binary fission results in two identical daughter cells. This is how prokaryotes, like bacteria, reproduce.

Eukaryotes are organisms with a nucleus in their cells. Many eukaryotes, like you, are also multicellular, and they usually use cell division for growth or to replace old or damaged cells. While the process of cell division is much more complicated in eukaryotes, it does have similarities to the process in prokaryotes. Just like in prokaryotes, DNA replication must occur first. Then mitosis, or the division of the nucleus, occurs. Cytokinesis, or the division of the cytoplasm, occurs just as it does in binary fission. Let's take a closer look at the processes of mitosis and cytokinesis.


Before mitosis can occur, DNA replication must take place. This process duplicates every strand of DNA so that there are two copies of every chromosome. The two copies are called sister chromatids and are attached at centromeres. Once DNA replication is complete, nuclear division will begin. Mitosis has four stages:

  1. Prophase
  2. Metaphase
  3. Anaphase
  4. Telophase

Prophase & Metaphase

Before prophase, chromosomes are actually not visible. The DNA is very loosely arranged and called chromatin. During prophase, chromatin will condense into visible chromosomes. Additionally, the nuclear envelope surrounding the DNA disappears. Spindle fibers form from centrioles. Spindle fibers attach to centromeres and centrioles move to opposite ends of the cell.

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