Staphylococcus bacteria viewed through microscope @1000xTM

Binary Fission
Cell Division & Reproduction of Prokaryotes
CLASS NOTES from Science Prof Online


Prokaryotic cells, such as bacteria and Archaea, are smaller, simpler and more evolutionarily primitive than eukaryotes are, and have only one option for reproduction, binary fission, which is also referred to as prokaryotic fission. 

What Is Binary Fission?
​Binary fission is a type of cell division in which a parent cell copies it’s genetic material, and then divides, transforming into two daughter cells, each new cell having one complete copy of the genetic instructions necessary to run the cell.

The Steps of Binary Fission
  • The parent cell grows to its maximum size.
  • The cell duplicates its chromosome (a process called replication) so that two exact copies of the genetic material exist inside the parent cell. These two molecules of DNA are attached to the cell’s plasma membrane.
  • The cell then grows, increasing the distance between the two duplicated chromosomes that are attached to the plasma membrane.
  • In prokaryotes (bacteria and Archaea), a new cell wall, called a septum, begins to grow across the middle of the cell, bisecting it. Amoeba, which do not have a cell wall, develop a cleavage furrow that pinches the cell in half.
  • After the septum forms completely, depending on the type of microbe, the daughter cells may remain attached to each other, or may completely separate. Whether attached or separated, each cell is an independent unit.
Article Summary: Prokaryotic cells reproduce by binary fission; a process in which the genetic material of the cell is copied and then the parent cell divides.
Binary Fission of Prokaryotic Cells
Binary Fission of Bacteria
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Prokaryotic Cell, Mariana Ruiz
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There are two basic types of cells —  
prokaryotes, such as bacteria and the more complex 
eukaryotes. Depending on the organism, eukaryotes have many different modes of reproduction, including mitosis and 
meiosis. Amoebae are the eukaryotic exception,reproducing 
by binary fission.

Instructor's Corner
Page last update: 6/2015
Simple Binary Fission Animation
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This process repeats, sometimes very quickly, such as in E. coli bacteria which divides every 15 minutes, or very slowly, such as in Mycobacteria leprae, the causative agent of leprosy, which only divides once every two weeks.

Binary Fission and Exponential Growth
Through the process of binary fission, one parent cell divides into two daughter cells and then each daughter cell of the following generation repeats the process…one cell leading to two, two to four, four to eight, and so on. This is called logarithmic or exponential growth, and depending on the generation time of the organisms (time between cell divisions), this strategy can result in very rapid population growth. For example E. coli, which has a short generation time, using binary fission, can go from one cell to a visible colony or millions of cells in a day.

Sources & Resources
  • Bauman, R. (2014) Microbiology with Diseases by Taxonomy. Pearson Benjamin Cummings.
  • Perry, J. and Stanley, J. (1997) Microbiology Dynamics & Diversity. Saunders College Publishing.

Binary Fission of Bacteria
4 Hours