This paper reviews our current knowledge of the cyclins based on observations of the oocytes and eggs of sea urchins, clams and frogs. Cyclins are proteins found in all eukaryotes whose special property is rapid destruction at specific stages in the cell cycle. The cyclins fall into three families. A-type cyclins have been found in clams, flies and frogs. B-type cyclins have been found in clams, flies, frogs, sea urchins and fission yeast. A more distantly related family of three genes is found in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. B-type cyclins appear to be required for cells to enter mitosis, and their destruction is thought to be necessary for exit from mitosis. We describe evidence in support of these ideas, and describe various conditions under which cyclin destruction is delayed or deranged. We conclude with a discussion of the relationship between the cyclins and maturation- (or M phase-) promoting factor and some ideas on how the cyclins may work.

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