Microtubule-organizing centers (MTOCs) in x-irradiated cells were visualized by immunofluorescence using antibody against tubulin. From two to ten reassembly sites of microtubules appeared after microtubule depolymerization at low temperature in an irradiated mitotic cell, in contrast to nonirradiated mitotic cells, which predominantly show 2 MTOCs. A time-course examination of MTOCs in synchronously cultured cells revealed that the multiple MTOCs appeared not immediately after irradiation but at the time of mitosis. Those multiple MTOCs formed at mitosis were inherited by the daughter cells in the next generation. The structure and capacity of the centrosomes to nucleate microtubules in vitro were then examined by electron microscopy of whole-mount preparations as well as by dark-field microscopy. About 70-80% of the centrosomes derived from nonirradiated cells were composed of a pair of centrioles and pericentriolar material, which initiated greater than 100 microtubules. The fraction of fully active complete centrosomes decreased with time of incubation after irradiation. These were replaced by disintegrated centrosomal components such as dissociated centrioles and pericentriolar cloud, a nucleating site with a single centriole, or only an amorphous structure of pericentriolar cloud. Assembly of less than 20 microtubules onto the amorphous cloud without centrioles was seen in 54% of the initiating sites in mitotic cells 2 d after irradiation. These results suggest that x-irradiation causes disintegration of centrosomes at mitosis when the structural and functional reorganization of centrosomes is believed to occur.

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