Regulation of cell cycle progression in changing environments is vital for cell survival and maintenance, and different regulation mechanisms based on cell size and cell cycle time have been proposed. To determine the mechanism of cell cycle regulation in the unicellular green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, we developed an on-chip single-cell cultivation system that allows for the strict control of the extracellular environment. We divided the Chlamydomonas cell cycle into interdivision and division phases on the basis of changes in cell size and found that, regardless of the amount of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) and the extent of illumination, the length of the interdivision phase was inversely proportional to the rate of increase of cell volume. Their product remains constant indicating the existence of an 'interdivision timer'. The length of the division phase, in contrast, remained nearly constant. Cells cultivated under light-dark-light conditions did not divide unless they had grown to twice their initial volume during the first light period. This indicates the existence of a 'commitment sizer'. The ratio of the cell volume at the beginning of the division phase to the initial cell volume determined the number of daughter cells, indicating the existence of a 'mitotic sizer'.
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