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Overview

The primary result of mitosis is the division of the parent cell's genome into two daughter cells. The genome is composed of a number of chromosomes, complexes of tightly-coiled DNA that contain genetic information vital for proper cell function. Because each resultant daughter cell should be genetically identical to the parent cell, the parent cell must make a copy of each chromosome before mitosis. This occurs during S phase, in interphase, the period that precedes the mitotic phase in the cell cycle where preparation for mitosis occurs.[5]

Each new chromosome now contains two identical copies of itself, called sister chromatids, attached together in a specialized region of the chromosome known as the centromere. Each sister chromatid is not considered a chromosome in itself, and a chromosome does not always contain two sister chromatids.

In most eukaryotes, the nuclear envelope that separates the DNA from the cytoplasm disassembles. The chromosomes align themselves in a line spanning the cell. Microtubules, essentially miniature strings, splay out from opposite ends of the cell and shorten, pulling apart the sister chromatids of each chromosome.[6] As a matter of convention, each sister chromatid is now considered a chromosome, so they are renamed to sister chromosomes. As the cell elongates, corresponding sister chromosomes are pulled toward opposite ends. A new nuclear envelope forms around the separated sister chromosomes.

As mitosis completes cytokinesis is well underway. In animal cells, the cell pinches inward where the imaginary line used to be, (the pinching of the cell membrane to form the two daughter cells is called cleavage furrow) separating the two developing nuclei. In plant cells, the daughter cells will construct a new dividing cell wall between each other. Eventually, the mother cell will be split in half, giving rise to two daughter cells, each with an equivalent and complete copy of the original genome.

Prokaryotic cells undergo a process similar to mitosis called binary fission. However, prokaryotes cannot be properly said to undergo mitosis because they lack a nucleus and only have a single chromosome with no centromere.[7]

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