During cell division complete DNA replication must occur before mitosis is initiated. Using a cell-free extract derived from Xenopus eggs that oscillates between S phase and mitosis, we have investigated how completion of DNA synthesis is coupled to the initiation of mitosis. We find that Xenopus eggs contain a feedback pathway which suppresses mitosis until replication is completed and that activation of this inhibitory system is dependent on the presence of a threshold concentration of unreplicated DNA. We demonstrate that in the presence of unreplicated DNA the active feedback system inhibits initiation of mitosis by blocking the activation of MPF, a regulator of mitosis found in all eukaryotic cells. Our results demonstrate that the feedback system does not inhibit MPF activation by blocking the synthesis or accumulation of cyclin protein, a subunit of MPF, or by blocking association of cyclin with the cdc2 subunit of MPF. We propose that the feedback system blocks mitosis by maintaining MPF in an inactive state by modulating posttranslational modifications critical for MPF activation.