A guiding hypothesis for cell-cycle regulation asserts that regulated proteolysis constrains the directionality of certain cell-cycle transitions. Here we test this hypothesis for mitotic exit, which is regulated by degradation of the cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (Cdk1) activator, cyclin B. Application of chemical Cdk1 inhibitors to cells in mitosis induces cytokinesis and other normal aspects of mitotic exit, including cyclin B degradation. However, chromatid segregation fails, resulting in entrapment of chromatin in the midbody. If cyclin B degradation is blocked with a proteasome inhibitor or by expression of non-degradable cyclin B, Cdk inhibitors will nonetheless induce mitotic exit and cytokinesis. However, if after mitotic exit, the Cdk1 inhibitor is washed free from cells in which cyclin B degradation is blocked, the cells can revert back to M phase. This reversal is characterized by chromosome recondensation, nuclear envelope breakdown, assembly of microtubules into a mitotic spindle, and in most cases, dissolution of the midbody, reopening of the cleavage furrow, and realignment of chromosomes at the metaphase plate. These findings demonstrate that proteasome-dependent degradation of cyclin B provides directionality for the M phase to G1 transition.