The Cell Cycle
We have already discussed how the two main events of cellular reproduction are the copying of cellular components and the cleavage of the cell. These two events, copying and cleaving, represent the two larger phases of the cell cycle, interphase and Mitosis. Mitosis is the part of the cell cycle when the cell prepares for and completes cell division. During interphase, appropriate cellular components are copied. Interphase is also a time of checkpoints to make sure that the cell is ready to proceed into mitosis. Both of these two phases have further sub-divisions. Since the cell cycle is a "cycle" it has no distinct beginning or ending. Cells are continually entering and exiting the various phases of the cycle. Mitosis will be covered in depth in the next SparkNote; here we will focus on what goes on during interphase.
We will begin our discussion of the events that take place during interphase with those that occur immediately after a cell has successfully divided during mitosis. This phase is called G1.
G1 is an intermediate phase occupying the time between the end of cell division in mitosis and the beginning of DNA replication during S phase. During this time, the cell grows in preparation for DNA replication, and certain intracellular components, such as the centrosomes undergo replication. Before a cell begins DNA replication, it must ensure that it is biologically ready to take on such a process. G1 is the phase when this cellular monitoring takes place.
During G1, the cell reviews the cellular environment and the cell size to ensure that the conditions are appropriate to support DNA replication. Not until the cell is ready does it leave G1. If all is not ready to undergo DNA replication, cells can pause during G1 and enter a phase called G0. Depending on a cell's preparedness to continue in the cell cycle, G0 can last days, weeks, or even years. When the cell has reached an appropriate size and is in a supportive environment for DNA replication, it will exit either G1 or G0 and enter the next phase of interphase called S phase.
S phase, or synthesis, is the phase of the cell cycle when DNA packaged into chromosomes is replicated. This event is an essential aspect of the cell cycle because replication allows for each cell created by cell division to have the same genetic make-up. (The specifics of how this replication takes place is covered in the DNA replication SparkNote in the series of SparkNotes dedicated to Molecular Biology.) During S phase a number of events additional to chromosomee replication take place. Cell growth continues through S phase, as does the rate of synthesis of a number of proteins and enzymes that are involved in DNA synthesis. Once DNA replication is complete the cell contains twice its normal number of chromosomes and becomes ready to enter the phase called G2.