A Blog Around The Clock

i-710d005c8660d36282911838843a792d-ClockWeb logo2.JPGConitnuing with the Thursday BIO101 lecture notes, here is the fifth part. As always, I ask you to correct my errors and make suggestions to make the lecture better. Keep in mind that this is a VERY basic speed-course and that each of the lecture-notes covers roughly 45 minutes (often having 3-4 of these within the same day). This part was first posted on May 14, 2006.


Cell Division and DNA Replication

BIO101 – Bora Zivkovic – Lecture 2 – Part 1

In the first lecture, we covered the way science works and especially how the scientific method applies to biology. Then, we looked at the structure of the cell, building a map of the cell – knowing what processes happen where in the cell, e.g., the production of energy-rich ATP molecules in the mitochondria.

In the third part of the lecture, we took a closer look at the way DNA code gets transcribed into RNA in the nucleus, and the RNA code translated into protein structure in the rough endoplasmatic reticulum. Finally, we looked at several different ways that cells communicate with each other and with the environment, thus modifying cell function.

All of that information will be important in this lecture, as we cover the ways cells divide, how cell-division, starting with a fertilized cell, builds an embryo, how genetic code (genotype) influences the observable and measurable traits (phenotype) and, finally, how do these processes affect the genetic composition of the populations of organisms of the same species – the process of evolution.


The only way to build a cell is by dividing an existing cell into two. As the genome (the complete sequence of the DNA) is an essential part of a cell, it is neccessary for the DNA to be duplicated prior to cell division.

In Eukaryotic cells, chromosomes are structures composed mostly of DNA and protein. DNA is a long double-stranded chain-like molecule. Some portions of the DNA are permanently coiled and covered with protective proteins to prevent DNA expression (transcription). Other parts can be unraveled so transcription can occur.

The number of chromosomes is different in different species. Human cells possess 23 pairs of chromosomes. Prior to cell division each chromosome replicates producing two identical sister chromosomes – each eventually landing in one of the daughter cells.

The process of DNA replication – the way all of the DNA code of the mother cell duplicates and one copy goes into each daughter cell – is the most important aspect of cell division. It is wonderfully described in your handout and depicted in the animation. Other cell organelles also divide and split into two daughter cells. Once the process of DNA replication is over, the new portion of the cell membrane gets built transecting the cell and dividing all the genetic material into two cellular compartments, leading the cell to split into two cells.
i-546ae96df18fd5fd00c27563e0454b2f-a1 mitosismeiosis.jpgMeiosis

Meiosis is a special case of cell division. While mitosis results in division of all types of cells in the body, meiosis results in the formation of sex cells – the gametes: eggs and sperm. Mitosis is a one-step process: one cell divides into two. Meiosis is a two-step process: one cell divides into two, then each daughter immediately divides again into two, resulting in four grand-daughter cells.

Each cell in the body has two copies of the entire DNA – one copy received from the mother, the other from the father. Fertilization (fusion of an egg and a sperm) would double the chromosome number in each generation if the egg and sperm cells had the duplicate copy. Meiosis ensures that gametes have only one copy of the genome – a mix of maternal and paternal sequences. Such a cell is called a haploid cell.

Once the egg and a sperm fuse, the resulting zygote (fertilized egg) again contains double dose of the DNA and is called a diploid cell. Thus the resultant zygote inherits genetic material from both its father and its mother. All the cells in the body except for the gametes are diploid. Sexual reproduction produces offspring that are genetically different from either parent.

DNA Replication

DNA replication is a complex process of duplication of the DNA involving many enzymes. It is the first and the most important process in cell division. Please read the handout (BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS DOES REPLICATION by David Ng) to appreciate the complexity of the process, but you do not need to memorize any of the enzymes for the exams. Also, it will help your understanding of the process if you watch this animation.


Peter H. Raven, George B. Johnson, Jonathan B. Losos, and Susan R. Singer, Biology (7th edition), McGraw-Hill Co. NY, Chapters 11, 12 and 14.

Further reading:


Previously in this series:

Biology and the Scientific Method
Cell Structure
Protein Synthesis: Transcription and Translation
Cell-Cell Interactions


  1. #1 raquel quiambao
    July 20, 2007

    thank you for answering my question

  2. #2 jeong
    May 18, 2008

    Thank you for this information.