Incubation of demembranated sperm chromatin in cytoplasmic extracts of unfertilized Xenopus laevis eggs resulted in nuclear envelope assembly, chromosome decondensation, and sperm pronuclear formation. In contrast, egg extracts made with EGTA-containing buffers induced the sperm chromatin to form chromosomes or irregularly shaped clumps of chromatin that were incorporated into bipolar or multipolar spindles. The 150,000 g supernatants of the EGTA extracts could not alone support these changes in incubated nuclei. However, these supernatants induced not only chromosome condensation and spindle formation, but also nuclear envelope breakdown when added to sperm pronuclei or isolated Xenopus liver or brain nuclei that were incubated in extracts made without EGTA. Similar changes were induced by partially purified preparations of maturation-promoting factor. The addition of calcium chloride to extracts containing condensed chromosomes and spindles caused dissolution of the spindles, decondensation of the chromosomes, and re-formation of interphase nuclei. These results indicate that nuclear envelope breakdown, chromosome condensation, and spindle assembly, as well as the regulation of these processes by Ca2+-sensitive cytoplasmic components, can be studied in vitro using extracts of amphibian eggs.

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