An aster of microtubules is a set of flexible polar filaments with dynamic plus ends that irradiate from a common location at which the minus ends of the filaments are found. Processive soluble oligomeric motor complexes can bind simultaneously to two microtubules, and thus exert forces between two asters. Using computer simulations, I have explored systematically the possible steady-state regimes reached by two asters under the action of various kinds of oligomeric motors. As expected, motor complexes can induce the asters to fuse, for example when the complexes consist only of minus end–directed motors, or to fully separate, when the motors are plus end directed. More surprisingly, complexes made of two motors of opposite directionalities can also lead to antiparallel interactions between overlapping microtubules that are stable and sustained, like those seen in mitotic spindle structures. This suggests that such heterocomplexes could have a significant biological role, if they exist in the cell.
spindle; cytoskeleton; molecular motor; aster; model
Ray Rappaport spent many years studying microtubule asters, and how they induce cleavage furrows. Here we review recent progress on aster structure and dynamics in zygotes and early blastomeres of Xenopus laevis and Zebrafish, where cells are extremely large. Mitotic and interphase asters differ markedly in size, and only interphase asters span the cell. Growth of interphase asters occurs by a mechanism that allows microtubule density at the aster periphery to remain approximately constant as radius increases. We discuss models for aster growth, and favor a branching nucleation process. Neighboring asters that grow into each other interact to block further growth at the shared boundary. We compare the morphology of interaction zones formed between pairs of asters that grow out from the poles of the same mitotic spindle (sister asters) and between pairs not related by mitosis (non-sister asters) that meet following polyspermic fertilization. We argue growing asters recognize each other by interaction between anti-parallel microtubules at the mutual boundary, and discuss models for molecular organization of interaction zones. Finally, we discuss models for how asters, and the centrosomes within them, are positioned by dynein-mediated pulling forces so as to generate stereotyped cleavage patterns. Studying these problems in extremely large cells is starting to reveal how general principles of cell organization scale with cell size.
Interpolar microtubules are sorted by the directional instability resulting from antagonistic molecular motors, not a stable balance of force.
During cell division, different molecular motors act synergistically to rearrange microtubules. Minus end–directed motors are thought to have a dual role: focusing microtubule ends to poles and establishing together with plus end–directed motors a balance of force between antiparallel microtubules in the spindle. We study here the competing action of Xenopus laevis kinesin-14 and -5 in vitro in situations in which these motors with opposite directionality cross-link and slide microtubules. We find that full-length kinesin-14 can form microtubule asters without additional factors, whereas kinesin-5 does not, likely reflecting an adaptation to mitotic function. A stable balance of force is not established between two antiparallel microtubules with these motors. Instead, directional instability is generated, promoting efficient motor and microtubule sorting. A nonmotor microtubule cross-linker can suppress directional instability but also impedes microtubule sorting, illustrating a conflict between stability and dynamicity of organization. These results establish the basic organizational properties of these antagonistic mitotic motors and a microtubule bundler.
We have prepared antibodies specific for HSET, the human homologue of the KAR3 family of minus end-directed motors. Immuno-EM with these antibodies indicates that HSET frequently localizes between microtubules within the mammalian metaphase spindle consistent with a microtubule cross-linking function. Microinjection experiments show that HSET activity is essential for meiotic spindle organization in murine oocytes and taxol-induced aster assembly in cultured cells. However, inhibition of HSET did not affect mitotic spindle architecture or function in cultured cells, indicating that centrosomes mask the role of HSET during mitosis. We also show that (acentrosomal) microtubule asters fail to assemble in vitro without HSET activity, but simultaneous inhibition of HSET and Eg5, a plus end-directed motor, redresses the balance of forces acting on microtubules and restores aster organization. In vivo, centrosomes fail to separate and monopolar spindles assemble without Eg5 activity. Simultaneous inhibition of HSET and Eg5 restores centrosome separation and, in some cases, bipolar spindle formation. Thus, through microtubule cross-linking and oppositely oriented motor activity, HSET and Eg5 participate in spindle assembly and promote spindle bipolarity, although the activity of HSET is not essential for spindle assembly and function in cultured cells because of centrosomes.
mitotic spindle; HSET; Eg5; kinesin; microtubule
During mitosis, mitotic centromere-associated kinesin (MCAK) localizes to chromatin/kinetochores, a cytoplasmic pool, and spindle poles. Its localization and activity in the chromatin region are regulated by Aurora B kinase; however, how the cytoplasmic- and pole-localized MCAK are regulated is currently not clear. In this study, we used Xenopus egg extracts to form spindles in the absence of chromatin and centrosomes and found that MCAK localization and activity are tightly regulated by Aurora A. This regulation is important to focus microtubules at aster centers and to facilitate the transition from asters to bipolar spindles. In particular, we found that MCAK colocalized with NuMA and XMAP215 at the center of Ran asters where its activity is regulated by Aurora A-dependent phosphorylation of S196, which contributes to proper pole focusing. In addition, we found that MCAK localization at spindle poles was regulated through another Aurora A phosphorylation site (S719), which positively enhances bipolar spindle formation. This is the first study that clearly defines a role for MCAK at the spindle poles as well as identifies another key Aurora A substrate that contributes to spindle bipolarity.
The dynamic behavior of homotetrameric kinesin-5 during mitosis is poorly understood. Kinesin-5 may function only by binding, cross-linking, and sliding adjacent spindle microtubules (MTs), or, alternatively, it may bind to a stable “spindle matrix” to generate mitotic movements. We created transgenic Drosophila melanogaster expressing fluorescent kinesin-5, KLP61F-GFP, in a klp61f mutant background, where it rescues mitosis and viability. KLP61F-GFP localizes to interpolar MT bundles, half spindles, and asters, and is enriched around spindle poles. In fluorescence recovery after photobleaching experiments, KLP61F-GFP displays dynamic mobility similar to tubulin, which is inconsistent with a substantial static pool of kinesin-5. The data conform to a reaction–diffusion model in which most KLP61F is bound to spindle MTs, with the remainder diffusing freely. KLP61F appears to transiently bind MTs, moving short distances along them before detaching. Thus, kinesin-5 motors can function by cross-linking and sliding adjacent spindle MTs without the need for a static spindle matrix.
Oocyte meiotic spindles of many species are anastral and lack centrosomes to nucleate microtubules. Assembly of anastral spindles occurs by a pathway that differs from that of most mitotic spindles. Here we analyze assembly of the Drosophila oocyte meiosis I spindle and the role of the Nonclaret disjunctional (Ncd) motor in spindle assembly using wild-type and mutant Ncd fused to GFP. Unexpectedly, we observe motor-associated asters at germinal vesicle breakdown that migrate towards the condensed chromosomes, where they nucleate microtubules at the chromosomes. Newly nucleated microtubules are randomly oriented, then become organized around the bivalent chromosomes. We show that the meiotic spindle forms by lateral associations of microtubule-coated chromosomes into a bipolar spindle. Lateral interactions between microtubule-associated bivalent chromosomes may be mediated by microtubule crosslinking by the Ncd motor, based on analysis of fixed oocytes. We report here that spindle assembly occurs in an ncd mutant defective for microtubule motility, but lateral interactions between microtubule-coated chromosomes are unstable, indicating that Ncd movement along microtubules is needed to stabilize interactions between chromosomes. A more severe ncd mutant that probably lacks ATPase activity prevents formation of lateral interactions between chromosomes and causes defective microtubule elongation. Anastral Drosophila oocyte meiosis I spindle assembly thus involves motor-associated asters to nucleate microtubules and Ncd motor activity to form and stabilize interactions between microtubule-associated chromosomes during the assembly process. This is the first complete account of assembly of an anastral spindle and the specific steps that require Ncd motor activity, revealing new and unexpected features of the process.
Meiotic spindle assembly; Anastral spindles; Microtubule motor; Ncd; Live oocytes
Chromosome segregation during mitosis depends on the action of the mitotic spindle, a self-organizing, bipolar protein machine which uses microtubules (MTs) and their associated motors1,2. Members of the BimC subfamily of kinesin-related MT–motor proteins are believed to be essential for the formation and functioning of a normal bipolar spindle3–14. Here we report that KRP130, a homotetrameric BimC-related kinesin purified from Drosophila melanogaster embryos13, has an unusual ultrastructure. It consists of four kinesin-related polypeptides assembled into a bipolar aggregate with motor domains at opposite ends, analogous to a miniature myosin filament15. Such a bipolar ‘minifilament’ could crosslink spindle MTs and slide them relative to one another. We do not know of any other MT motors that have a bipolar structure.
The tetrameric plus-end directed motor, kinesin-5, is essential for bipolar spindle assembly. Small molecule inhibitors of kinesin-5 have been important tools for investigating its function, and some are currently under evaluation as anti-cancer drugs. Most inhibitors reported to date are “non-competitive inhibitors” and bind to a specific site on the motor head, trapping the motor in a state with ADP bound, and a weak but non-zero affinity for microtubules. Here we used a novel ATP competitive inhibitor, “FCPT”, developed at Merck (USA) which competes with the ATP substrate. We found that it induced tight binding of kinesin-5 onto microtubules in vitro. Using Xenopus egg extract spindles, we found FCPT not only blocks poleward microtubule sliding but also induced loss of microtubules selectively at the poles of bipolar spindles (and not asters or monoasters). We also found that the spindle pole proteins, TPX2 and γ-tubulin became redistributed to the spindle equator, suggesting proper kinesin-5 function is required for pole assembly.
The mitotic spindle is a complex macromolecular machine that coordinates accurate chromosome segregation. The spindle accomplishes its function using forces generated by microtubules (MTs) and multiple molecular motors, but how these forces are integrated remains unclear, since the temporal activation profiles and the mechanical characteristics of the relevant motors are largely unknown. Here, we developed a computational search algorithm that uses experimental measurements to ‘reverse engineer' molecular mechanical machines. Our algorithm uses measurements of length time series for wild-type and experimentally perturbed spindles to identify mechanistic models for coordination of the mitotic force generators in Drosophila embryo spindles. The search eliminated thousands of possible models and identified six distinct strategies for MT–motor integration that agree with available data. Many features of these six predicted strategies are conserved, including a persistent kinesin-5-driven sliding filament mechanism combined with the anaphase B-specific inhibition of a kinesin-13 MT depolymerase on spindle poles. Such conserved features allow predictions of force–velocity characteristics and activation–deactivation profiles of key mitotic motors. Identified differences among the six predicted strategies regarding the mechanisms of prometaphase and anaphase spindle elongation suggest future experiments.
genetic algorithm; mathematical model; mitosis; reverse engineering; spindle
NuMA (Nuclear protein that associates with the Mitotic Apparatus) is a 235-kD intranuclear protein that accumulates at the pericentrosomal region of the mitotic spindle in vertebrate cells. To determine if NuMA plays an active role in organizing the microtubules at the polar region of the mitotic spindle, we have developed a cell free system for the assembly of mitotic asters derived from synchronized cultured cells. Mitotic asters assembled in this extract are composed of microtubules arranged in a radial array that contain NuMA concentrated at the central core. The organization of microtubules into asters in this cell free system is dependent on NuMA because immunodepletion of NuMA from the extract results in randomly dispersed microtubules instead of organized mitotic asters, and addition of the purified recombinant NuMA protein to the NuMA-depleted extract fully reconstitutes the organization of the microtubules into mitotic asters. Furthermore, we show that NuMA is phosphorylated upon mitotic aster assembly and that NuMA is only required in the late stages of aster assembly in this cell free system consistent with the temporal accumulation of NuMA at the polar ends of the mitotic spindle in vivo. These results, in combination with the phenotype observed in vivo after the prevention of NuMA from targeting onto the mitotic spindle by antibody microinjection, suggest that NuMA plays a functional role in the organization of the microtubules of the mitotic spindle.
Circumstantial evidence has suggested the possibility of microtubule-associated protein (MAP) kinase's involvement in spindle regulation. To test this directly, we asked whether MAP kinase was required for spindle assembly in Xenopus egg extracts. Either the inhibition or the depletion of endogenous p42 MAP kinase resulted in defective spindle structures resembling asters or half-spindles. Likewise, an increase in the length and polymerization of microtubules was measured in aster assays suggesting a role for MAP kinase in regulating microtubule dynamics. Consistent with this, treatment of extracts with either a specific MAP kinase kinase inhibitor or a MAP kinase phosphatase resulted in the rapid disassembly of bipolar spindles into large asters. Finally, we report that mitotic progression in the absence of MAP kinase signaling led to multiple spindle abnormalities in NIH 3T3 cells. We therefore propose that MAP kinase is a key regulator of the mitotic spindle.
MAP kinase; Rsk; spindle assembly; Xenopus; mitotic spindle
Centrioles are lost during oogenesis and inherited from the sperm at fertilization. In the zygote, the centrioles recruit pericentriolar proteins from the egg to form a mature centrosome that nucleates a sperm aster. The sperm aster then captures the female pronucleus to join the maternal and paternal genomes. Because fertilization occurs before completion of female meiosis, some mechanism must prevent capture of the meiotic spindle by the sperm aster. Here we show that in wild-type Caenorhabditis elegans zygotes, maternal pericentriolar proteins are not recruited to the sperm centrioles until after completion of meiosis. Depletion of kinesin-1 heavy chain or its binding partner resulted in premature centrosome maturation during meiosis and growth of a sperm aster that could capture the oocyte meiotic spindle. Kinesin prevents recruitment of pericentriolar proteins by coating the sperm DNA and centrioles and thus prevents triploidy by a non-motor mechanism.
The lamin-B nuclear envelope stabilizes spindle microtubules by keeping the competitive motility of opposing-force kinesins in check.
We tested the classical hypothesis that astral, prometaphase bipolar mitotic spindles are maintained by balanced outward and inward forces exerted on spindle poles by kinesin-5 and -14 using modeling of in vitro and in vivo data from Drosophila melanogaster embryos. Throughout prometaphase, puncta of both motors aligned on interpolar microtubules (MTs [ipMTs]), and motor perturbation changed spindle length, as predicted. Competitive motility of purified kinesin-5 and -14 was well described by a stochastic, opposing power stroke model incorporating motor kinetics and load-dependent detachment. Motor parameters from this model were applied to a new stochastic force-balance model for prometaphase spindles, providing a good fit to data from embryos. Maintenance of virtual spindles required dynamic ipMTs and a narrow range of kinesin-5 to kinesin-14 ratios matching that found in embryos. Functional perturbation and modeling suggest that this range can be extended significantly by a disassembling lamin-B envelope that surrounds the prometaphase spindle and augments the finely tuned, antagonistic kinesin force balance to maintain robust prometaphase spindles as MTs assemble and chromosomes are pushed to the equator.
Mitotic spindles are microtubule-based structures responsible for chromosome partitioning during cell division. Although the roles of microtubules and microtubule-based motors in mitotic spindles are well established, whether or not actin filaments (F-actin) and F-actin–based motors (myosins) are required components of mitotic spindles has long been controversial. Based on the demonstration that myosin-10 (Myo10) is important for assembly of meiotic spindles, we assessed the role of this unconventional myosin, as well as F-actin, in mitotic spindles. We find that Myo10 localizes to mitotic spindle poles and is essential for proper spindle anchoring, normal spindle length, spindle pole integrity, and progression through metaphase. Furthermore, we show that F-actin localizes to mitotic spindles in dynamic cables that surround the spindle and extend between the spindle and the cortex. Remarkably, although proper anchoring depends on both F-actin and Myo10, the requirement for Myo10 in spindle pole integrity is F-actin independent, whereas F-actin and Myo10 actually play antagonistic roles in maintenance of spindle length.
Taxol, a microtubule stabilizing drug, induces the formation of numerous microtubule asters in the cytoplasm of mitotic cells (De Brabander, M., G. Geuens, R. Nuydens, R. Willebrords, J. DeMey. 1981. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 78:5608-5612). The center of these asters share with spindle poles some characteristics such as the presence of centrosomal material and calmodulin. We have recently reproduced the assembly of taxol asters in a cell-free system (Buendia, B., C. Antony, F. Verde, M. Bornens, and E. Karsenti. 1990. J. Cell Sci. 97:259-271) using extracts of Xenopus eggs. In this paper, we show that taxol aster assembly requires phosphorylation, and that they do not grow from preformed centers, but rather by a reorganization of microtubules first crosslinked into bundles. This process seems to involve sliding of microtubules along each other and we show that cytoplasmic dynein is required for taxol aster assembly. This result provides a possible functional basis to the recent findings, that dynein is present in the spindle and enriched near spindle poles (Pfarr, C. M., M. Cove, P. M. Grissom, T. S. Hays, M. E. Porter, and J. R. McIntosh. 1990. Nature (Lond.). 345:263-265; Steuer, E. R., L. Wordeman, T. A. Schroer, and M. P. Sheetz. 1990. Nature (Lond.). 345:266-268).
We investigated the mechanism of poleward microtubule flux in the mitotic spindle by generating spindle subassemblies in Xenopus egg extracts in vitro and assaying their ability to flux by photoactivation of fluorescence and low-light multichannel fluorescence video-microscopy. We find that monopolar intermediates of in vitro spindle assembly (half-spindles) exhibit normal poleward flux, as do astral microtubule arrays induced by the addition of dimethyl sulfoxide to egg extracts in the absence of both chromosomes and conventional centrosomes. Immunodepletion of the kinesin-related microtubule motor protein Eg5, a candidate flux motor, suggests that Eg5 is not required for flux. These results suggest that poleward flux is a basic element of microtubule behavior exhibited by even simple self-organized microtubule arrays and presumably underlies the most elementary levels of spindle morphogenesis.
Xklp1 is a chromosome-associated kinesin required for Xenopus early embryonic cell division. Function blocking experiments in Xenopus egg extracts suggested that it is required for spindle assembly. We have reinvestigated Xklp1 function(s) by monitoring spindle assembly and microtubule behavior under a range of Xklp1 concentrations in egg extracts. We found that in the absence of Xklp1, bipolar spindles form with a reduced efficiency and display abnormalities associated with an increased microtubule mass. Likewise, centrosomal asters assembled in Xklp1-depleted extract show an increased microtubule mass. Conversely, addition of recombinant Xklp1 to the extract reduces the microtubule mass associated with spindles and asters. Our data suggest that Xklp1 affects microtubule polymerization during M-phase. We propose that these attributes, combined with Xklp1 plus-end directed motility, contribute to the assembly of a functional bipolar spindle.
Xklp2 is a plus end–directed Xenopus kinesin-like protein localized at spindle poles and required for centrosome separation during spindle assembly in Xenopus egg extracts. A glutathione-S-transferase fusion protein containing the COOH-terminal domain of Xklp2 (GST-Xklp2-Tail) was previously found to localize to spindle poles (Boleti, H., E. Karsenti, and I. Vernos. 1996. Cell. 84:49–59). Now, we have examined the mechanism of localization of GST-Xklp2-Tail. Immunofluorescence and electron microscopy showed that Xklp2 and GST-Xklp2-Tail localize specifically to the minus ends of spindle pole and aster microtubules in mitotic, but not in interphase, Xenopus egg extracts. We found that dimerization and a COOH-terminal leucine zipper are required for this localization: a single point mutation in the leucine zipper prevented targeting. The mechanism of localization is complex and two additional factors in mitotic egg extracts are required for the targeting of GST-Xklp2-Tail to microtubule minus ends: (a) a novel 100-kD microtubule-associated protein that we named TPX2 (Targeting protein for Xklp2) that mediates the binding of GST-Xklp2-Tail to microtubules and (b) the dynein–dynactin complex that is required for the accumulation of GST-Xklp2-Tail at microtubule minus ends. We propose two molecular mechanisms that could account for the localization of Xklp2 to microtubule minus ends.
kinesin-like protein; microtubule-associated protein; spindle; microtubule; dynein
Current models for cleavage plane determination propose that metaphase spindles are positioned and oriented by interactions of their astral microtubules with the cellular cortex, followed by cleavage in the plane of the metaphase plate [1, 2]. We show that in early frog and fish embryos, where cells are unusually large, astral microtubules in metaphase are too short to position and orient the spindle. Rather, the preceding interphase aster centers and orients a pair of centrosomes prior to nuclear envelope breakdown, and the spindle assembles between these prepositioned centrosomes. Interphase asters center and orient centrosomes using dynein-mediated pulling forces. These forces act before astral microtubules contact the cortex; thus, dynein must pull from sites in the cytoplasm, not the cell cortex as is usually proposed for smaller cells. Aster shape is determined by interactions of the expanding periphery with the cell cortex, or with an interaction zone that forms between sister-asters in telophase. We propose a model to explain cleavage plane geometry in which the length of astral microtubules is limited by interaction with these boundaries, causing length asymmetries. Dynein anchored in the cytoplasm then generates length–dependent pulling forces, which move and orient centrosomes.
The temporal and spatial regulation of cytokinesis requires an interaction between the anaphase mitotic spindle and the cell cortex. However, the relative roles of the spindle asters or the central spindle bundle are not clear in mammalian cells. The central spindle normally serves as a platform to localize key regulators of cell cleavage, including passenger proteins. Using time-lapse and immunofluorescence analysis, we have addressed the consequences of eliminating the central spindle by ablation of PRC1, a microtubule bundling protein that is critical to the formation of the central spindle. Without a central spindle, the asters guide the equatorial cortical accumulation of anillin and actin, and of the passenger proteins, which organize into a subcortical ring in anaphase. Furrowing goes to completion, but abscission to create two daughter cells fails. We conclude the central spindle bundle is required for abscission but not for furrowing in mammalian cells.
Pineapples, or self-organized, Taxol-stabilized microtubule assemblies, reveal the richness of self-organizing mechanisms that operate on assembled microtubules during cell division and provide a biochemically tractable system for investigating these mechanisms during meiosis and cytokinesis.
Previous study of self-organization of Taxol-stabilized microtubules into asters in Xenopus meiotic extracts revealed motor-dependent organizational mechanisms in the spindle. We revisit this approach using clarified cytosol with glycogen added back to supply energy and reducing equivalents. We added probes for NUMA and Aurora B to reveal microtubule polarity. Taxol and dimethyl sulfoxide promote rapid polymerization of microtubules that slowly self-organize into assemblies with a characteristic morphology consisting of paired lines or open circles of parallel bundles. Minus ends align in NUMA-containing foci on the outside, and plus ends in Aurora B–containing foci on the inside. Assemblies have a well-defined width that depends on initial assembly conditions, but microtubules within them have a broad length distribution. Electron microscopy shows that plus-end foci are coated with electron-dense material and resemble similar foci in monopolar midzones in cells. Functional tests show that two key spindle assembly factors, dynein and kinesin-5, act during assembly as they do in spindles, whereas two key midzone assembly factors, Aurora B and Kif4, act as they do in midzones. These data reveal the richness of self-organizing mechanisms that operate on microtubules after they polymerize in meiotic cytoplasm and provide a biochemically tractable system for investigating plus-end organization in midzones.
We have designed experiments that distinguish centrosomal , nuclear, and cytoplasmic contributions to the assembly of the mitotic spindle. Mammalian centrosomes acting as microtubule-organizing centers were assayed by injection into Xenopus eggs either in a metaphase or an interphase state. Injection of partially purified centrosomes into interphase eggs induced the formation of extensive asters. Although centrosomes injected into unactivated eggs (metaphase) did not form asters, inhibition of centrosomes is not irreversible in metaphase cytoplasm: subsequent activation caused aster formation. When cytoskeletons containing nuclei and centrosomes were injected into the metaphase cytoplasm, they produced spindle-like structures with clearly defined poles. Electron microscopy revealed centrioles with nucleated microtubules. However, injection of nuclei prepared from karyoplasts that were devoid of centrosomes produced anastral microtubule arrays around condensing chromatin. Co-injection of karyoplast nuclei with centrosomes reconstituted the formation of spindle-like structures with well-defined poles. We conclude from these experiments that in mitosis, the centrosome acts as a microtubule-organizing center only in the proximity of the nucleus or chromatin, whereas in interphase it functions independently. The general implications of these results for the interconversion of metaphase and interphase microtubule arrays in all cells are discussed.
We used computer simulation to understand the functional relationships between motor (dynein, HSET, and Eg5) and non-motor (NuMA) proteins involved in microtubule aster organization. The simulation accurately predicted microtubule organization under all combinations of motor and non-motor proteins, provided that microtubule cross-links at minus-ends were dynamic, and dynein and HSET were restricted to cross-linking microtubules in parallel orientation only. A mechanistic model was derived from these data in which a combination of two aggregate properties, Net Minus-end–directed Force and microtubule Cross-linking Orientation Bias, determine microtubule organization. This model uses motor and non-motor proteins, accounts for motor antagonism, and predicts that alterations in microtubule Cross-linking Orientation Bias should compensate for imbalances in motor force during microtubule aster formation. We tested this prediction in the mammalian mitotic extract and, consistent with the model, found that increasing the contribution of microtubule cross-linking by NuMA compensated for the loss of Eg5 motor activity. Thus, this model proposes a precise mechanism of action of each noncentrosomal protein during microtubule aster organization and suggests that microtubule organization in spindles involves both motile forces from motors and static forces from non-motor cross-linking proteins.
Mitotic cells have been detergent extracted under conditions that support microtubule assembly. When HeLa cells are lysed in the presence of brain tubulin, mitotic-arrested cells nucleate large asters and true metaphase cells yield spindles that remain enclosed within a roughly spherical cage of filamentous material. Detergent-extracted mitotic Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells show a similar, insoluble cage but the mitotic apparatus is only occasionally stabilized. In later stages of mitosis, HeLa cages are observed in elongated and furrowed configurations. In the terminal stages of cell division, two daughter filamentous networks are connected by the intercellular bridge. When observed in the electron microscope the cages include fibers 7-11 nm in diameter. The polypeptide composition of cages isolated from mitotic HeLa cells is complex, but the major polypeptides are a group with mol wt ranging from 43,000-60,000 daltons and a high molecular weight polypeptide. CHO cells contain a subset of these proteins which includes a major 58,000-dalton and a high molecular weight polypeptide. Two different antisera directed against the vimentin-containing intermediate filaments bind to polypeptides in the electrophoretic profiles of isolated HeLa and CHO cages and stain the cages, as visualized by indirect immunofluorescence. These results suggest that the HeLa and CHO cages include intermediate filaments of the vimentin type. The polypeptide composition of HeLa cages suggests that they also contain tonofilaments. The cages apparently form as the cells enter mitosis. We propose that these filamentous cages maintain the structural continuity of the cytoplasm while the cell is in mitosis.