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Metaphase in cells (here an animal cell) are characterized by the arrangement of chromosomes at the equatorial plane of the spindle
Chromosomes lined up on the metaphase plate. Two views with the metaphase plate rotated 60°.
Stages of early mitosis in a vertebrate cell with micrographs of chromatids

Metaphase (from Ancient Greek μετα- (meta-) beyond, above, transcending and from Ancient Greek φάσις (phásis) 'appearance') is a stage of mitosis in the eukaryotic cell cycle in which chromosomes are at their second-most condensed and coiled stage (they are at their most condensed in anaphase).[1] These chromosomes, carrying genetic information, align in the equator of the cell before being separated into each of the two daughter cells. Metaphase accounts for approximately 4% of the cell cycle's duration.[citation needed] Preceded by events in prometaphase and followed by anaphase, microtubules formed in prophase have already found and attached themselves to kinetochores in metaphase.

In metaphase, the centromeres of the chromosomes convene themselves on the metaphase plate (or equatorial plate),[2] an imaginary line that is equidistant from the two centrosome poles. This even alignment is due to the counterbalance of the pulling powers generated by the opposing kinetochore microtubules,[3] analogous to a tug-of-war between two people of equal strength, ending with the destruction of B cyclin.[4] In certain types of cells, chromosomes do not line up at the metaphase plate and instead move back and forth between the poles randomly, only roughly lining up along the middleline.[citation needed] Early events of metaphase can coincide with the later events of prometaphase, as chromosomes with connected kinetochores will start the events of metaphase individually before other chromosomes with unconnected kinetochores that are still lingering in the events of prometaphase.[citation needed]

One of the cell cycle checkpoints occurs during prometaphase and metaphase. Only after all chromosomes have become aligned at the metaphase plate, when every kinetochore is properly attached to a bundle of microtubules, does the cell enter anaphase. It is thought that unattached or improperly attached kinetochores generate a signal to prevent premature progression to anaphase, even if most of kinetochores have been attached and most of the chromosomes have been aligned. Such a signal creates the mitotic spindle checkpoint. This would be accomplished by regulation of the anaphase-promoting complex, securin, and separase.

Metaphase in cytogenetics and cancer studies[edit]

Human metaphase chromosomes (normal male karyotype)

The analysis of metaphase chromosomes is one of the main tools of classical cytogenetics and cancer studies. Chromosomes are condensed (thickened) and highly coiled in metaphase, which makes them most suitable for visual analysis. Metaphase chromosomes make the classical picture of chromosomes (karyotype). For classical cytogenetic analyses, cells are grown in short term culture and arrested in metaphase using mitotic inhibitor. Further they are used for slide preparation and banding (staining) of chromosomes to be visualised under microscope to study structure and number of chromosomes (karyotype). Staining of the slides, often with Giemsa (G banding) or Quinacrine, produces a pattern of in total up to several hundred bands. Normal metaphase spreads are used in methods like FISH and as a hybridization matrix for comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) experiments.

Malignant cells from solid tumors or leukemia samples can also be used for cytogenetic analysis to generate metaphase preparations. Inspection of the stained metaphase chromosomes allows the determination of numerical and structural changes in the tumor cell genome, for example, losses of chromosomal segments or translocations, which may lead to chimeric oncogenes, such as bcr-abl in chronic myelogenous leukemia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chromosome condensation through mitosis". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 12 June 2007.
  2. ^ "Metaphase plate". Biology Dictionary. Biology Online. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  3. ^ "Metaphase". Nature Education. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  4. ^ "The Cell Cycle". Kimball's Biology Pages. Archived from the original on 19 November 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2012.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Metaphase at Wikimedia Commons