When higher eukaryotic cells enter mitosis, membrane organization changes dramatically and traffic between membrane compartments is inhibited. Since membrane transport along microtubules is involved in secretion, endocytosis, and the positioning of organelles during interphase, we have explored whether the mitotic reorganization of membrane could involve a change in microtubule-based membrane transport. This question was examined by reconstituting organelle transport along microtubules in Xenopus egg extracts, which can be converted between interphase and metaphase states in vitro in the absence of protein synthesis. Interphase extracts support the microtubule-dependent formation of abundant polygonal networks of membrane tubules and the transport of small vesicles. In metaphase extracts, however, the plus end- and minus end-directed movements of vesicles along microtubules as well as the formation of tubular membrane networks are all reduced substantially. By fractionating the extracts into soluble and membrane components, we have shown that the cell cycle state of the supernatant determines the extent of microtubule-based membrane movement. Interphase but not metaphase Xenopus soluble factors also stimulate movement of membranes from a rat liver Golgi fraction. In contrast to above findings with organelle transport, the minus end-directed movements of microtubules on glass surfaces and of latex beads along microtubules are similar in interphase and metaphase extracts, suggesting that cytoplasmic dynein, the predominant soluble motor in frog extracts, retains its force-generating activity throughout the cell cycle. A change in the association of motors with membranes may therefore explain the differing levels of organelle transport activity in interphase and mitotic extracts. We propose that the regulation of organelle transport may contribute significantly to the changes in membrane structure and function observed during mitosis in living cells.

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