During cell division, the mitotic spindle partitions chromosomes into daughter nuclei. In higher plants, the molecular mechanisms governing spindle assembly and function remain largely unexplored. Here, live cell imaging of mitosis in Arabidopsis thaliana plants lacking a kinesin-14 (ATK5) reveals defects during early spindle formation. Beginning during prophase and lasting until late prometaphase, spindles of atk5-1 plants become abnormally elongated, are frequently bent, and have splayed poles by prometaphase. The period of spindle elongation during prophase and prometaphase is prolonged in atk5-1 cells. Time-lapse imaging of yellow fluorescent protein:ATK5 reveals colocalization with perinuclear microtubules before nuclear envelope breakdown, after which it congresses inward from the poles to the midzone, where it becomes progressively enriched at regions of overlap between antiparallel microtubules. In vitro microtubule motility assays demonstrate that in the presence of ATK5, two microtubules encountering one another at an angle can interact and coalign, forming a linear bundle. These data indicate that ATK5 participates in the search and capture of antiparallel interpolar microtubules, where it aids in generating force to coalign microtubules, thereby affecting spindle length, width, and integrity
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