S/M checkpoints prevent various aspects of cell division when DNA has not been replicated. Such checkpoints are stringent in yeast and animal somatic cells but are usually partial or not present in animal embryos. Because little is known about S/M checkpoints in plant cells and embryos, we have investigated the effect of aphidicolin, a specific inhibitor of DNA polymerases (alpha) and (delta), on cell division and morphogenesis in Fucus and Pelvetia zygotes. Both DNA replication and cell division were inhibited by aphidicolin, indicating the presence, in fucoid zygotes, of a S/M checkpoint. This checkpoint prevents chromatin condensation, spindle formation, centrosomal alignment with the growth axis and cytokinesis but has no effect on germination or rhizoid elongation. This S/M checkpoint also prevents tyrosine dephosphorylation of cyclin-dependent kinase-like proteins at the onset of mitosis. The kinase activity is restored in extracts upon incubation with cdc25A phosphatase. When added in S phase, olomoucine, a specific inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinases, has similar effects as aphidicolin on cell division although alignment of the centrosomal axis still occurs. We propose a model involving the inactivation of CDK-like proteins to account for the S/M DNA replication checkpoint in fucoid zygotes and embryos.