We have developed a new model system for studying spindle elongation in vitro using the pennate, marine diatom Cylindrotheca fusiformis. C. fusiformis can be grown in bulk to high densities while in log phase growth and synchronized by a simple light/dark regime. Isolated spindles can be attained in quantities sufficient for biochemical analysis and spindle tubulin is approximately 5% of the total protein present. The spindle isolation procedure results in a 10-fold enrichment of diatom tubulin and a calculated 40-fold increase in spindle protein. Isolated spindles or spindles in permeabilized cells can elongate in vitro by the same mechanism and with the same pharmacological sensitivities as described for other anaphase B models (Cande and McDonald, 1986; Masuda et al., 1990). Using this model, in vitro spindle elongation rate profiles were developed for a battery of nucleotide triphosphates and ATP analogs. The relative rates of spindle elongation produced by various nucleotide triphosphates parallel relative rates seen for kinesin-based motility in microtubule gliding assays. Likewise ATP analogs that allow discrimination between myosin-, dynein-, and kinesin-mediated motility produce relative spindle elongation rates characteristic of kinesin motility. Also, isolated spindle fractions are enriched for a kinesin related protein as identified by a peptide antibody against a conserved region of the kinesin superfamily. These data suggest that kinesin-like motility contributes to spindle elongation during anaphase B of mitosis.

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