Spindles underwent a 12-fold elongation before anaphase B was completed during the closed mitoses of micronuclei in Paramecium tetraurelia. Two main classes of spindle microtubules have been identified. A peripheral sheath of microtubules with diameters of 27-32 nm was found to be associated with the nuclear envelope and confined to the midportion of each spindle. Most of the other microtubules had diameters of approximately 24 nm and were present along the entire lengths of spindles. Nearly all of the 24-nm microtubules were eliminated from spindle midportions (largely because of microtubule disassembly) at a relatively early stage of spindle elongation. Disassembly of some of these microtubules also occurred at the ends of spindles. About 60% of the total microtubule content of spindles was lost at this stage. Most, perhaps all, peripheral sheath microtubules remained intact. Many of them detached from the nuclear envelope and regrouped to form a compact microtubule bundle in the spindle midportion. There was little, if any, further polymerization of 24-nm microtubules after the disassembly phase. Polymerization of microtubules with diameters of 27-32 nm continued as spindle elongation progressed. Most microtubules in the midportions of well-elongated spindles were constructed from 14-16 protofilaments. A few 24-nm microtubules with 13 protofilaments were also present. The implications of these findings for spatial control of microtubule assembly, disassembly, positioning, and membrane association, that apparently discriminate between microtubules with different protofilament numbers have been explored. The possibility that microtubule sliding occurs during spindle elongation has also been considered.

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