Abstract In the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, nutritional reduction of growth rate by supplying poor nitrogen, carbon or phosphate sources causes a decrease in cell size. The effect on cell division following three different nutritional shifts-up has been investigated. In all cases, about 20% of the cells divide at the original cell length, and then cell division stops for a period. Cell division then resumes at the new faster rate, cell length at division being characteristic of the new medium. Further investigation reveals that the first effect of the shift is to inhibit nuclear division rapidly and completely. These results are strongly suggestive of the operation of a cell size requirement for entry into nuclear division. The cell size necessary for nuclear division is set, or modulated, by the prevailing growth conditions. This model is confirmed by a nutritional shift-down, where nuclear division and cell division are stimulated after the shift. Cell length at division falls rapidly until the new shorter length is attained, when a new steady state is assumed at a slower growth rate. The control system is compared with that in bacteria, and its implications for various models proposed for the control of timing of mitosis are discussed.