I microinjected calcium ions into echinoderm eggs during mitosis to determine the calcium sensitivity of microtubules (Mts) in vivo. Spindle birefringence (BR), a measure of the number of aligned Mts in the spindle, is locally, rapidly, and reversibly abolished by small volumes of microinjected CaCl2 (1 mM). Rapid return of BR is followed by anaphase, and subsequent divisions are normal. Similar doses of MgCl2, BaCl2, KCl, NaCl, pH buffers, distilled water, or vegetable oil have no effect on spindle BR, whereas large doses of such agents sometimes cause slow, uniform loss in BR over the course of a minute or more. Of the ions tested, only Sr++ causes effects comparable to Ca++. Ca-EGTA buffers, containing greater than micromolar free Ca++, abolishes BR in a manner similar to millimolar concentrations of injected CaCl2. Caffeine, a potent uncoupler of the Ca++-pump/ATPase of sarcoplasmic reticulum, causes a local, transient depression in spindle BR in the injected region. Finally, injection of potassium oxalate results in the formation of small, highly BR crystals, presumably CA-oxalate, in Triton-sensitive compartments in the cytoplasm. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that spindle Mts are sensitive to levels of free Ca++ in the physiological range, provide evidence for the existence of a strong cytoplasmic Ca++-sequestering system, and support the notion that Mt assembly and disassembly in local regions of the spindle may be orchestrated by local changes in the cytoplasmic free Ca++ concentration during mitosis. An appendix offers the design of a new chamber for immobilizing echinoderm eggs for injection, a new method for determining the volume of the injected solution, and a description of the microinjection technique, which was designed, but never fully described, by Hiramoto (Y. Hiramoto, Exp. Cell. Res., 1962, 27:416-426.).

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