Cytokinesis is the final event of the cell division cycle, and its completion results in irreversible partition of a mother cell into two daughter cells. Cytokinesis was one of the first cell cycle events observed by simple cell biological techniques; however, molecular characterization of cytokinesis has been slowed by its particular resistance to in vitro biochemical approaches. In recent years, the use of genetic model organisms has greatly advanced our molecular understanding of cytokinesis. While the outcome of cytokinesis is conserved in all dividing organisms, the mechanism of division varies across the major eukaryotic kingdoms. Yeasts and animals, for instance, use a contractile ring that ingresses to the cell middle in order to divide, while plant cells build new cell wall outward to the cortex. As would be expected, there is considerable conservation of molecules involved in cytokinesis between yeast and animal cells, while at first glance, plant cells seem quite different. However, in recent years, it has become clear that some aspects of division are conserved between plant, yeast, and animal cells. In this review we discuss the major recent advances in defining cytokinesis, focusing on deciding where to divide, building the division apparatus, and dividing. In addition, we discuss the complex problem of coordinating the division cycle with the nuclear cycle, which has recently become an area of intense research. In conclusion, we discuss how certain cells have utilized cytokinesis to direct development.
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