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Science. 1989 Nov 3;246(4930):629-34.

Checkpoints: controls that ensure the order of cell cycle events.

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Department of Genetics, University of Washington, Seattle 98195.


The events of the cell cycle of most organisms are ordered into dependent pathways in which the initiation of late events is dependent on the completion of early events. In eukaryotes, for example, mitosis is dependent on the completion of DNA synthesis. Some dependencies can be relieved by mutation (mitosis may then occur before completion of DNA synthesis), suggesting that the dependency is due to a control mechanism and not an intrinsic feature of the events themselves. Control mechanisms enforcing dependency in the cell cycle are here called checkpoints. Elimination of checkpoints may result in cell death, infidelity in the distribution of chromosomes or other organelles, or increased susceptibility to environmental perturbations such as DNA damaging agents. It appears that some checkpoints are eliminated during the early embryonic development of some organisms; this fact may pose special problems for the fidelity of embryonic cell division.

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