Prokaryotes have cell walls but lack nuclei and membrane-bound organelles. A prokaryote's single DNA molecule is not coiled around proteins to form chromosomes. Instead, a prokaryote's DNA is a circular chromosome attached to the inner surface of the plasma membrane like a rope attached to the inner wall of a tent. For most prokaryotes, cell division takes place through a process called binary fission.
Binary fission is the division of a prokaryotic cell into two offspring cells, as shown in Figure 8-4. The DNA is copied, resulting in two identical chromosomes attached to the inside of the prokary-ote's inner cell membrane. A new cell membrane then begins to develop between the two DNA copies. The cell grows until it reaches approximately twice the cell's original size. As new material is added, the growing cell membrane pushes inward and the cell is constricted in the center, like a balloon being squeezed in the middle. A new cell wall forms around the new membrane. Eventually, the dividing prokaryote is split into two independent cells. Each cell contains one of the identical chromosomes that resulted from the copying of the original cell's chromosome.
Most prokaryotes reproduce by binary fission, in which two identical cells are produced from one cell.
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