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Stages of the Cell Cycle - Mitosis (Metaphase, Anaphase and Telophase)

The Mitotic Cell Cycle

Mitosis is vital to multicellular life on our planet. This diagram summarises the whole process.

Mitosis is vital to multicellular life on our planet. This diagram summarises the whole process.

Metaphase, Anaphase and Telophase

Part one of this series looked at the cycles within cycles that make up the existence of a cell. Whilst taking up such a small percentage of the overall cell cycle, mitosis is one of the most important series of events in the life of a cell. We shall now examine how the condensed sister chromatids (when chromosomes look like a big X they are called sister chromatids - the part where the arms of the x 'join' is known as the centromere) align along the metaphase plate, separate and are repackaged into nuclei

During Metaphase, the sister chromatids MEET at the metaphase plate

During Metaphase, the sister chromatids MEET at the metaphase plate


Metaphase sees the chromosomes line up along the metaphase plate. Here, the spindle fibres attach to the centromeres of the sister chromatids. These fibres act as tow cables to separate the sister chromatids.

Metaphase is one of the most easily-recognisable phases of the cell cycle, and is also the location of a key cell cycle checkpoint - the mitotic spindle checkpoint. Anti-cancer compounds such as taxanes (docetaxel and paclitaxel(Taxol)) work by inhibiting the destruction of the spindle fibres, thus preventing movement through the mitotic spindle checkpoint. This results in cell death

During Anaphase, the chromatids move APART

During Anaphase, the chromatids move APART


The major event of Anaphase is the sister chromatids moving to opposite poles of the cells, due to the action of the condensing spindle fibres. The chromatids only start separating when the pressure is sufficient to split the centromere. At this point, each chromatid effectively becomes a chromosome. The moving sister chromatids form a V shape as they move through the cytoplasm. This is because the centromeres are pulled by the spindle fibres, and lead the rest of the chromatid.

Telophase sees the nuclear envelope reform around the chromosomes at opposite poles of the cell

Telophase sees the nuclear envelope reform around the chromosomes at opposite poles of the cell


Telophase basically describesthe series of events that sees new nuclear envelopes form around each set of sister chromatids - now located at the poles of the cell. Also:

  • The spindle breaks down
  • Chromosomes unravel and so are invisible under light microscopy

The cell is now preparing for the final stage in the cell cycle, cytokinesis


Cytokinesis is technically a separate set of events to mitosis. It describes the series of events seen when the cell splits into two. This process starts as a cleavage furrow between the cells, making it look like the figure 8. This furrow extends until the whole cell has split. With identical genetic information, each cell can perform the same task as the parent cell.

A couple of details need clarification about the differences between plant and animal mitosis:

  • Plant cells do not have centrioles. The fibres that make up the spindle are synthesised directly in the cytoplasm
  • All animal cells are capable of mitosis and cytokinesis. Plant cells focus their growth to specialised regions called meristems - found at the root tips and shoot tips.
  • As plant cells need to synthesis the cell wall during cytokinesis, they do not create a cleavage furrow 'from the outside in.' Cytokinesis starts where the spindle equator was, and continues with new cell membrane and new cell wall material being laid down along this plate.

Stages of Mitosis (narrated)

Knowledge Check

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Owlcation

  1. Which phase sees the chromatids meeting along the equator of the cell?
    • Metaphase
    • Anaphase
    • Telophase
    • Cytokinesis
  2. Which of the following is not technically a stage of Mitosis
    • Metaphase
    • Anaphase
    • Telophase
    • Cytokinesis
  3. What is mitosis?
    • The process of nuclear division
    • The process of cell division
  4. During which stage do the chromosomes separate?
    • Metaphase
    • Anaphase
    • Telophase
    • Cytokinesis

Answer Key

  1. Metaphase
  2. Cytokinesis
  3. The process of nuclear division
  4. Anaphase

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 1 correct answer: 1/4 - More practice needed!

If you got 2 correct answers: 2/4 - Halfway through cell division

If you got 3 correct answers: 3/4 - Good Job!

If you got 4 correct answers: Full Marks - You are a mitosis master!

Where Next? Mitosis

  • Mitosis
    Another excellent resource from John Kyrk. An excellent A level resource or revision for undergrads. Well worth a look!
  • The Cell Cycle & Mitosis Tutorial
    Fabulously detailed but still accessible. A thoroughly useful resource for school students, undergrads and anyone who is interested in learning more about the cell cycle. Thoroughly recommended
  • Mitosis: An Interactive Animation
    Interactive animation showing the stages of animal cell mitosis.
  • The Stages of Mitosis - YouTube
    A video with a fly through of cells preparing to undergo mitosis. 3D and interesting, while lacking depth. Still, a good starter or hook into a mitosis lesson.
  • Cell Division: Stages of Mitosis | Learn Science at Scitable
    Fully understanding the mechanisms of mitosis remains one of the greatest challenges facing modern biologists. A Nature review of Mitosis


mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm on February 02, 2020:

the steps of mitosis are clear and the video is helpful because you can remember the steps and what happens.

Mk on January 13, 2020:

it is so stupid

emman on November 09, 2019:

nice explanation! I clearly fetch because of the video

Mk on December 05, 2018:

That was so helpful

Archana Rai on November 28, 2018:

Good understanding

Monika on September 02, 2018:


Bhau & jayu on May 16, 2018:

Very nice

shobhakriahnagowda on April 24, 2018:

Good understanding ..

... on November 29, 2017:

this is really good and helps me understand thx so much! ive been using this for my notes to help me study bc my teacher makes no sense, she just has us copy notes and then gives us worksheets and i just didnt understand. This is really great thx sooo much!

Adam on July 12, 2014:

This customizable and printable flash card set is helpful for memorizing the stages of mitosis:

madhuri on November 14, 2012:

good understanding of concepts

Eric Kasleboom on May 09, 2012:

well done relly loved it

Pedro Silva from Portugal on February 10, 2012:

Well done! I'm on the last year of secondary school and I learned even more with these lesson.

Steve LePoidevin from Thailand on January 02, 2012:

As always,another well-explained lesson. Will have to pass these on to my biology teacher friends.

Shasta Matova from USA on January 02, 2012:

Great lesson with interesting photos and video. Voted up.

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