The term cell growth is used in two different ways in biology.
When used in the context of reproduction cells of living cells the phrase "cell growth" is shorthand for the idea of "growth in cell populations by means of cell reproduction." During cell reproduction one cell (the "mother" cell) divides to produce two daughter cells.
Oocytes can be unusually large cells in species for which embryonic development takes place away from the mother's body. Their large size can be achieved either by pumping in cytosolic components from adjacent cells through cytoplasmic bridges (Drosophila) or by internalization of nutrient storage granules (yolk granules) by endocytosis (frogs).
Increases in the size of plant cells is complicated by the fact that almost all plant cells are inside of a solid cell wall. Under the influence of certain plant hormones the cell wall can be remodeled, allowing for increases in cell size that are important for the growth of some plant tissues.
Most unicellular organisms are microscopic in size, but there are some giant bacteria and protozoa that are visible to the naked eye. See: Table of cell sizes - Dense populations of a giant sulfur bacterium in Namibian shelf sediments - Large protists of the genus Chaos, closely related to the genus Amoeba
The process of cell reproduction has three major parts. The first part of cell reproduction involves the replication of the parental cell's DNA. The second major issue is the separation of the duplicated DNA into two equally sized groups of chromosomes. The third major aspect of cell reproduction is the physical division of entire cells, usually called cytokinesis.
Cell reproduction is more complex in eukaryotes than in other organisms. Prokaryotic cells such as bacterial cells reproduce by binary fission, a process that includes DNA replication, chromosome segregation, and cytokinesis. Eukaryotic cell reproduction either involves mitosis or a more complex process called meiosis. Mitosis and meiosis are sometimes called the two "nuclear division" processes. Binary fission is similar to eukaryotic cell reproduction that involves mitosis. Both lead to the production of two daughter cells with the same number of chromosomes as the parental cell. Meiosis is used for a special cell reproduction process of diploid organisms. It produces four special daughter cells (gametes) which have half the normal cellular amount of DNA. A male and a female gamete can then combine to produce a zygote, a cell which again has the normal amount of chromosomes.
The rest of this article is a comparison of the main features of the three types of cell
reproduction that either involve binary fission, mitosis, or meiosis. The diagram below depicts the
similarities and differences of these three types of cell reproduction.
After the completion of binary fission or cell reproduction involving mitosis, each daughter cell has the same amount of DNA (Z) as what the parental cell had before it replicated its DNA. These two types of cell reproduction produced two daughter cells that have the same number of chromosomes as the parental cell. After meiotic cell reproduction the four daughter cells have half the number of chromosomes that the parental cell originally had. This is the haploid amount of DNA, often symbolized as N. Meiosis is used by diploid organisms to produce haploid gametes. In a diploid organism such as the human organism, most cells of the body have the diploid amount of DNA, 2N. Using this notation for counting chromosomes we say that human somatic cells have 46 chromosomes (2N = 46) while human sperm and eggs have 23 chromosomes (N = 23). Humans have 23 distinct types of chromosomes, the 22 autosomes and the special category of sex chromosomes. There are two distinct sex chromosomes, the X chromosome and the Y chromosome. A diploid human cell has 23 chromosomes from that person's father and 23 from the mother. That is, your body has two copies of human chromosome number 2, one from each of your parents.
Immediately after DNA replication a human cell will have 46 "double chromosomes". In each double chromosome there are two copies of that chromosome's DNA molecule. During mitosis the double chromosomes are split to produce 92 "single chromosomes", half of which go into each daughter cell. During meiosis, there are two chromosome separation steps which assure that each of the four daughter cells gets one copy of each of the 23 types of chromosome.
Though cell reproduction that uses mitosis can reproduce eukaryotic cells, eukaryotes bother with the more complicated process of meiosis because sexual reproduction such as meiosis confers a selective advantage. Notice that when meiosis starts, the two copies of sister chromatids number 2 are adjacent to each other. During this time, there can be genetic recombination events. Parts of the chromosome 2 DNA gained from one parent (red) will swap over to the chromosome 2 DNA molecule that received from the other parent (green). Notice that in mitosis the two copies of chromosome number 2 do not interact. It is these new combinations of parts of chromosomes that provide the major advantage for sexually reproducing organisms by allowing for new combinations of genes and more efficient evolution. However, in organisms with more than one set of chromosomes at the main life cycle stage, sex may also provide an advantage because, under random mating, it produces homozygotes and heterozygotes according to the Hardy-Weinberg ratio.