Many important discoveries in cell cycle research have been made using cell-free extracts prepared from the eggs of the South African clawed frog Xenopus laevis . These extracts effi ciently support the key nuclear functions of the eukaryotic cell cycle in vitro under apparently the same controls that exist in vivo. The Xenopus cell-free system is therefore uniquely suited to the study of the mechanisms, dynamics and integration of cell cycle regulated processes at a biochemical level. Here, we describe methods currently in use in our laboratory for the preparation of Xenopus egg extracts and demembranated sperm nuclei. We detail how these extracts can be used to study the key transitions of the eukaryotic cell cycle and describe conditions under which these transitions can be manipulated by addition of drugs that either retard or advance passage. In addition, we describe in detail essential techniques that provide a practical starting point for investigating the function of proteins involved in the operation of the eukaryotic cell cycle.