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What causes cell division?

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Quick Answer

Cell division is part of the cell cycle, and it is caused either by binary fission or as part of a multiple-phase cycle. Binary fission is the method by which prokaryotic cells divide. Eukaryotic cells use the three-phase cycle commonly referred to as mitosis.

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Full Answer

Bacteria are one example of prokaryotic cells, and the binary fission by which they divide is a form of asexual reproduction. Binary fission is much less complex than mitosis, and it can occur in a mere 20 minutes at room temperature. Within the cell, the circular DNA molecule is copied, and it then moves to the poles of the cell. The cell then begins to lengthen until the middle of the cell separates into two new identical cells.

Mitosis, used for growth and repair of skin, hair and blood cells, begins with interphase. During this phase, the cell grows and collects nutrients to prepare for mitosis and begins to replicate DNA. The mitotic phase separates the chromosomes into two identical nuclei and moves directly into cytokinesis.

Cytokinesis divides the cytoplasm, organelles and other needed parts into the two daughter cells equally. Cytokinesis can occur directly with mitosis, and these two phases are often referred to simply as "M phase."

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