Meiosis

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Meiosis is a process of reductional division in which the number of chromosomes per cell is halved. In animals, meiosis always results in the formation of gametes, while in other organisms it can give rise to spores. Before meiosis begins, the DNA in the original cell is replicated. Thus, meiosis starts with homologous chromsomes.

Meiosis is the type of cell division by which germ cells (eggs and sperm) are produced. Meiosis involves a reduction in the amount of genetic material. Meiosis comprises two successive nuclear divisions with only one round of DNA replication.

Meiosis is essential for sexual reproduction and therefore occurs in all eukaryotes that reproduce sexually. A few eukaryotes, notably the Bdelloid rotifers, have lost the ability to carry out meiosis and have acquired the ability to reproduce by parthenogenesis. Meiosis does not occur in archaea or bacteria, which reproduce via asexual processes such as binary fission.

Because meiosis is a "one-way" process, it cannot be said to engage in a cell cycle as mitosis does. However, the preparatory steps that lead up to meiosis are identical in pattern and name to the interphase of the mitotic cell cycle.
Interphase is divided into three phases:
1) Gap 1 (G1) phase: This is a very active period, where the cell synthesizes its vast array of proteins, including the enzymes and structural proteins it will need for growth. In G1 stage each of the chromosomes consists of a single (very long) molecule of DNA. In humans, at this point cells are 46 chromosomes, 2N, identical to somatic cells.
2) Synthesis (S) phase: The genetic material is replicated: each of its chromosomes duplicates, producing 46 chromosomes each made up of two sister chromatids. The cell is still considered diploid because it still contains the same number of centromeres. The identical sister chromatids have not yet condensed into the densely packaged chromosomes visible with the light microscope. This will take place during prophase I in meiosis.
3) Gap 2 (G2) phase: G2 phase is absent in Meiosis.

Interphase is followed by meiosis I and then meiosis II. Meiosis I consists of separating the pairs of homologous chromosome, each made up of two sister chromatids, into two cells. One entire haploid content of chromosomes is contained in each of the resulting daughter cells; the first meiotic division therefore reduces the ploidy of the original cell by a factor of 2.

Meiosis II consists of decoupling each chromosome's sister strands (chromatids), and segregating the individual chromatids into haploid daughter cells. The two cells resulting from meiosis I divide during meiosis II, creating 4 haploid daughter cells. Meiosis I and II are each divided into prophase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase stages, similar in purpose to their analogous subphases in the mitotic cell cycle.