What Is Interphase? - Definition, Stages & Quiz

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Jeffrey Sack

Jeff is a Biology teacher and has a Doctorate in Educational Leadership

This lesson will define the stage of interphase during the cell cycle. The different phases of interphase and the events that occur during each will also be discussed.

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What is Interphase?

Before a cell can reproduce, it has to perform a variety of activities to get ready. The stage of the cell cycle in which a cell is preparing itself to duplicate is called interphase. Since so many things are happening in the cell at this time, most of the cell's life is spent in this stage. While preparing to reproduce, the cell makes more cytoplasm (the gel-like substance found inside the cell membrane that bathes the organelles) and increases its supply of proteins. When it is ready, it goes through three sub-phases of interphase: G1, S, and G2.

Sub-phases of interphase
Interphase I

What Happens During G1?

During the G1, or Gap 1, sub-phase of interphase, the cell is getting ready to move into the S sub-phase. The chromosomes in the nucleus have not yet replicated, and the cell is growing. It experiences a significant increase in size. If the cell did not grow before it divided, it would ultimately become too small to function. Each cell division would make it smaller and smaller until there was nothing left of it. G1 can vary in its length of time, depending upon the type of cell. Some cells, such as rapidly dividing embryonic cells, do away with it altogether. This is because these cells are more concerned with how fast they can divide than making sure all of the new cells work properly. If some of these cells fail to function because they did not grow enough, there are enough of them so that others can take up the slack.

Other cells stay in this sub-phase for weeks or years. If they are in this sub-phase for long periods of time, they enter what is called the G0 phase. This is basically a state of suspended animation. To get out of G0, special internal and external signals are needed. Once received, the cell will reenter G1.

There is a transition step between G1 and S called the restriction point. This is the time when the cell has committed to duplicate its DNA and engage in cell division. Once it reaches this point, the cell will proceed regardless of the environmental conditions. This guarantees another cell cycle after the current one is completed.

What Happens During S?

The S sub-phase of interphase is when all of the cell's genetic material is duplicated. Each chromosome is copied and results in a pair of sister chromatids. Remember that a chromosome is a strand of DNA wrapped around proteins. These will then separate when the cell finally divides. One half will go into each new cell.

Chromosome replication happens when a DNA strand unwinds and the strands separate. Each of these strands now serves as a template for the new strands of DNA that will be formed. Free-floating nucleotides in the nucleus attach themselves to the exposed nitrogen bases of the template strand. This results in the new chromosomes being half of the original parent strand and half of the new strand. They are almost identical to the original strands. This entire process is driven by several enzymes, proteins that speed up reactions.

What Happens During G2?

The last sub-phase of interphase is called G2. It is here that the cells finish growing and prepare for mitosis. The organelles duplicate at this time and the microtubules that make the spindle fibers, which will separate the chromatids, are formed. The chromosomes condense and attach themselves to the spindle fibers. Once this happens, the cell is ready to move into the first step of mitosis and begin dividing.


The amount of time a cell spends in each sub-phase varies. Once the cell has split into two, the entire process starts all over again. Each new daughter cell, which is now half the size of the original parent cell, goes back into the G1 sub-phase of interphase to begin growing and duplicating its chromosomes. This is how the continuity of life maintains itself.

Approximate Time Spent in each Sub-phase
Cell Cycle timeframe

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