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The Dynamic Behavior of Individual Microtubules Associated with Chromosomes In Vitro

By Alan J. Hunt and J. Richard McIntosh


Mitotic movements of chromosomes are usually coupled to the elongation and shortening of the microtubules to which they are bound. The lengths of kinetochore-associated microtubules change by incorporation or loss of tubulin subunits, principally at their chromosome-bound ends. We have reproduced aspects of this phenomenon in vitro, using a real-time assay that displays directly the movements of individual chromosome-associated microtubules as they elongate and shorten. Chromosomes isolated from cultured Chinese hamster ovary cells were adhered to coverslips and then allowed to bind labeled microtubules. In the presence of tubulin and GTP, these microtubules could grow at their chromosome-bound ends, causing the labeled segments to move away from the chromosomes, even in the absence of ATP. Sometimes a microtubule would switch to shortening, causing the direction of movement to change abruptly. The link between a microtubule and a chromosome was mechanically strong; 15 pN of tension was generally insufficient to detach a microtubule, even though it could add subunits at the kinetochore–microtubule junction. The behavior of the microtubules in vitro was regulated by the chromosomes to which they were bound; the frequency of transitions from polymerization to depolymerization was decreased, and the speed of depolymerization-coupled movement toward chromosomes was only one-fifth the rate of shortening for microtubules free in solution. Our results are consistent with a model in which each microtubule interacts with an increasing number of chromosome-associated binding sites as it approaches the kinetochore

Topics: Article
Publisher: The American Society for Cell Biology
Year: 1998
DOI identifier: 10.1091/mbc.9.10.2857
OAI identifier:
Provided by: PubMed Central
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