The relationship between developmental events and the cell cycle was examined in sperm of Arabidopsis thaliana. Sperm of Arabidopsis rapidly enter the S (synthesis) phase of the cell cycle after inception from mitosis of the generative cell. Sperm in pollen grains within anthers continue to synthesize DNA, and at the time of pollination, contain approximately 1.5C DNA. Following pollination, sperm continue through the S phase of the cell cycle during pollen tube growth. By the time pollen tubes reach the ovary, sperm nuclei contain approximately 1.75C DNA. Just prior to double fertilization, sperm nuclei within embryo sacs contain the 2C quantity of DNA. These data indicate that molecular programs associated with the G1-S transition and the S phase of the cell cycle are expressed in sperm cells of developing pollen grains and pollen tubes in Arabidopsis. This pattern of prefertilization S phase activity in the sperm of a flowering plant stands in marked contrast to all other non-plant eukaryotes (from ciliates to yeast to sea urchins to mammals) where sperm remain in G1 during development, prior to the initiation of gametic fusion. In addition, when patterns of cell cycle activity in sperm of Arabidopsis and other flowering plants are compared, developmental analysis reveals that heterochronic alterations (changes in the relative timing of ontogenetic events) in cell cycle activity are a central cause of the diversification of patterns of gametogenesis in higher plants. Finally, comparative analysis of the patterns of cell cycle activity in Arabidopsis and other angiosperms may be used to predict which flowering plants will be amenable to development of successful in vitro fertilization techniques.