Laminar-turbulent transition is an old yet unsolved problem. Notwithstanding the great effort made, there is an important question that seems not to have been addressed yet, that is, what is the inherent mechanism of breakdown that eventually leads to transition? The conventional idea is that the transition starts from the amplification of disturbances, and when the disturbances become larger, higher harmonics will be generated due to nonlinear effect, making the flow more and more complicated, and finally turbulent. Though the scenario seems clear, yet there is a missing link, that is, what happens in the breakdown process. Here we show by analyzing the results from direct numerical simulations that the change of stability characteristics of the mean flow profile plays a key role in the breakdown process.