Bacterial binary fission is the process that bacteria use to carry out cell division. Learn the steps of binary fission, including copying the bacterial chromosome and forming a new cell wall.
You may be familiar with mitosis, which is the process that eukaryotes (such as you, me, your dog, and your favorite houseplant) use to divide their nuclear DNA during cell division. However, mitosis is a complex process, a chromosomal "dance" with some fancy choreography.
So, you might be wondering: How do simpler organisms, like bacteria, undergo cell division? The answer: binary fission!
What is binary fission?
Bacterial binary fission is the process that bacteria use to carry out cell division. Binary fission is similar in concept to the mitosis that happens in multicellular organisms (such as plants and animals), but its purpose is different.
When cells divide by mitosis in the body of a multicellular organism, they cause the organism to grow larger or replace old, worn-out cells with new ones. In the case of a bacterium, however, cell division isn’t just a means of making more cells for the body. Instead, it’s actually how bacteria reproduce, or add more bacteria to the population.
Binary fission has features in common with mitosis, but also differs from mitosis in some important ways. Let's take a look at how it works.
Steps of binary fission
Like a human cell, a dividing bacterium needs to copy its DNA. Unlike human cells, which have multiple linear (rod-like) chromosomes enclosed in a membrane-bound nucleus, bacterial cells usually have a single, circular chromosome and always lack a nucleus. However, the bacterial chromosome is found in a specialized region of the cell called the nucleoid.
Copying of DNA by replication enzymes begins at a spot on the chromosome called the origin of replication. The origin is the first part of the DNA to be copied. As replication continues, the two origins move towards opposite ends of the cell, pulling the rest of the chromosome along with them. The cell also gets longer, adding to the separation of the newly forming chromosomes.
Stages of binary fission.
- We see the intact bacterial chromosome (which is circular). It has two regions called the origin of replication and the terminus of replication, which are located diametrically opposite to one another on the chromosome.
- The chromosome opens at the origin of replication, and the two DNA strands are copied, with replication proceeding in opposite directions on the two strands.
- Copying continues, and the cell elongates. The new origins of replication move apart, towards opposite ends of the cell.
- A septum (wall) forms down the middle of the cell, partitioning it into two new cells, each with one of the two (now-complete) bacterial chromosome copies.
- The cell pinches in two. We now have two new bacteria!
Replication continues until the entire chromosome is copied and the replication enzymes meet at the far side. Once the new chromosomes have moved to opposite cell ends and cleared the center of the cell, division of the cytoplasm can take place.
In this process, the membrane pinches inward and a septum, or new dividing wall, forms down the middle of the cell. (Bacteria have a cell wall, so they must regenerate this wall when they undergo cell division.)
Finally, the septum itself splits down the middle, and the two cells are released to continue their lives as individual bacteria.
Comparing binary fission and mitosis
Bacterial binary fission is similar in some ways to the mitosis that happens in humans and other eukaryotes. In both cases, chromosomes are copied and separated, and the cell divides its cytoplasm to form two new cells.
However, the mechanics and sequence of the two processes are fairly different. For one thing, no mitotic spindle forms in bacteria. Perhaps more importantly, DNA replication actually happens at the same time as DNA separation during binary fission (unlike in mitosis, where DNA is copied during S phase, long before its separation in M phase).
Want to join the conversation?
- can you please give me examples of bacteria that use binary fission?(10 votes)
- Is there a certain number of times mitosis can happen to a cell, or its offspring?(6 votes)
- Yes actually, there are things called telomeres within each cell's DNA, and each time they split it gets shorter and shorter, when it's too short to divide any further, it will likely die.(22 votes)
- What does binary fission stand for?(3 votes)
- The septum is forming by affixing of protein complexes and protein filaments can you explain that please and if you haves ome pictures will be better. Thank you(2 votes)
- Why is it typical for prokaryotes after fission to have their chromosomes circular?(3 votes)
- Having circular chromosomes allow prokaryotes(in this case bacteria) to divide/reproduce infinitely. This is because circular DNA lacks telomeres, a region of repetitive DNA used to prevent deterioration of chromosomes. Also, some prokaryotes have linear DNA like Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which has both linear and circular chromosomes.(2 votes)
- hi is parthogenesis also a part of binary fission(2 votes)
- Not really. Both are types of asexual reproduction where the offspring are genetically the same as the parent, but binary fission has to do with the organism itself splitting into two, whereas in parthenogenesis, the parent gives birth to a child, but its a form of asexual reproduction because there is no other gender to fertilize the egg. There's a Khan Academy article that goes over this more in depth:
- I have heard E. Coli divides every 20 minutes, and this could cover the surface of the Earth in 36 hours if left unobserved. So, is it common to see a E. Coli bacterium or is it rare. Since, if it was common it would have covered most of our planet's surface. But it being rare is not possible since its cell division is very quick? I hope you understand my question... Thanx(2 votes)
- I'm sure it doesn't say 'if left unobserved'. Logically it doesn't work as most E. coli are unobserved. It is found pretty much everywhere, including in our bodies.(3 votes)
- What exactly happens in the second step when the "origin of replication opens and DNA replication begins"?(2 votes)
- Origin of replication opens and DNA replication begins - meaning that structure similar to replication fork of Eukaryotes forms.
Two strands are separated apart, and DNA polymerase starts adding nucleotides.(2 votes)
- Which of the following eukaryotic process is similar to the bacterial asexual reproduction?(2 votes)
- I can only come up with mitosis. Since both are 'division' of a cell. In the first case, it represents whole organism and in the latter, it represents one cell of many (multicellular organism). Then meiosis can be plausible too. That is division of germ cells.(2 votes)