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Anaphase - Structure, Functionality, Parts

Anaphase is a sub-process of mitosis and meiosis processes of cell division. Anaphase is the third stage of both the processes and is concerned with the division and distribution of cell materials. This process precedes the telophase of mitosis and meiosis while it supersedes the metaphase in both.

Mitosis and meiosis vastly differ in functionality and process, but they share several similarities as well. This applies to the anaphase too.

Subsequently, we shall discuss the two phases of anaphase, the structural changes in the shapes of chromosomes during anaphase, the importance of the phase, and much more. However, the main focus shall lie on mitosis.

Before we discuss what is anaphase, let us understand mitosis and meiosis, followed by an introduction of the stages before the stage.

Mitosis and Meiosis 

Mitosis is a cell division process where the parent cell divides itself into two cells identical in nature. It has four stages: prophase, metaphase, anaphase, and telophase. Meiosis also has all four phases. However, it produces four cells at the end. Each cell has half of the chromosomes of the parent cell.

Before the anaphase, the hormones already have themselves paired and replicated. They also align themselves along a plane, called the equator of the cell, via the microtubules of the centrosome. In other words, the cell prepares itself to be equally divided during the anaphase.

What is Anaphase?

The cell division processes of mitosis and meiosis have a subprocess called the anaphase, which ensures that all the daughter cells get their rightful share of chromosomes and other cell materials. The stage is often divided into two more stages, namely anaphase 1 and 2. 

Let us discuss the structures involved in anaphase before we move on to the details of the separation.

Anaphase Structure

The anaphase involves several crucial events. The structural changes brought by it are of paramount importance to the mitosis process, which is characterized by the formation of identical cells.

A simplistic view of anaphase structure is as follows:

  • The spindle fibres form an oval around the chromatids, which are attached to them at the kinetochore.

  • The centrosomes are the spindle fibre poles and hence lie at extreme ends.

  • The chiasmas are separated into two independent chromosomes and move towards the poles.

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Different Structures Involved in Anaphase

The anaphase of mitosis involves the functioning of the following:

  • Centrosome: 

They form the interpolar microtubules and the astral microtubules around the chromosomes, which facilitate the movement of the chromatids. The microtubules now form an oval shape instead of a circular one. 

  • The Chiasma: 

The chromosomes are in an X shape, called chiasma, aligned at the equatorial plane. The shapes of chromosomes during anaphase change to Y-like or V-like after being pulled to both the poles.

  • Centromeres: 

They join the two pairs of sister chromatids through a protein. They are specialized strings of DNA that allow themselves to be attached to the spindle fibre. Their protein is broken down during anaphase, which allows movement.

  • Motor Proteins: 

Motor proteins carry the chromatids and other proteins throughout the cell division phase

What Happens During Anaphase?

The main characteristic of the anaphase of mitosis is the separation of two sister chromatids and their migration to the poles of the cell. During the process, the centromeres readily divide to give birth to two chromosomes.

What happens during anaphase is that proteins break the substance that makes the two copies of chromosomes stick together at the centromere. Simultaneously, the two ends of the spindle fibre contract to create an oval shape.

The tension thus caused pulls both the chromatids apart, and the sister chromatids reach their respective poles. This is facilitated by motor proteins.

This process has two phases, anaphase 1 and 2. The main difference between anaphase 1 and anaphase 2 is the part that moves in the phase. In the former, the sister chromatids separate to allow movement. These chromatids move towards the spindle pole along the microtubule towards the spindle poles in anaphase 2.

Fun Fact

Motor proteins discussed earlier can actually walk through the cell structure. It is these motor proteins that carry out what happens during anaphase. Hence, they carry the chromatids away from the centre by literally "walking" along the microtubules.

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In the anaphase of mitosis, the Anaphase-Promoting Complex/Cyclosome (APC/C), commonly called separase, is released. It is this chemical that triggers the phase. This is a multi-subunit ubiquitin ligase that facilitates the chromatids to separate through protein degradation. This protein degradation is vital to facilitate a smooth movement of the chromosomes during anaphase 2.

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FAQs on Anaphase

1. What is the difference between metaphase and anaphase?

Ans: The anaphase and the metaphase are two processes of mitosis cell division. The metaphase is the second phase of the process, which is proceeded by the anaphase. Other differences between metaphase and anaphase are:

  • During metaphase, the pairs of chromatids are attached and aligned properly to the spindle fibres. On the other hand, the anaphase is characterized by their separation and migration to opposite poles.

  • The spindle fibres move in a push or pull direction to align the chromosomes along with the metaphase plate, an imaginary equator, during the metaphase. The microtubules in the anaphase retract or contract to pull the chromatids to spindle poles.

  • The metaphase takes place in about 10 minutes, while the anaphase takes just 2-3 minutes.

2. What is anaphase one? How is it different from anaphase two?

Ans: Anaphase one and two are two separate phases of the anaphase. The anaphase is a part of the mitotic cell division and is responsible for equal segregation of cell DNA during the cell division process. Here, anaphase one is responsible for separating the two sister chromatids from each other to facilitate their movement to the spindle poles. This is made possible through the movement of the spindle fibres and the proteins which break down the cohesion at the centromere.

Anaphase two carries out the movement of the separated chromatids through the motor proteins and retraction of the spindle fibres.

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