The molecular signals that determine the position and timing of the cleavage furrow during mammalian cell cytokinesis are presently unknown. We have studied in detail the effect of dihydrocytochalasin B (DCB), a drug that interferes with actin assembly, on specific late mitotic events in synchronous HeLa cells. When cleavage furrow formation is blocked at 10 microM DCB, cells return to interphase by the criteria of reformation of nuclei with lamin borders, degradation of the cyclin B component of p34cdc2 kinase, and loss of mitosis specific MPM-2 antigens. However, the machinery for cell cleavage is retained for up to one hour into G1 when cleavage cannot proceed. The components retained consist prominently of a "postmitotic" spindle and a telophase disc, a structure templated by the mitotic spindle in anaphase that may determine the position and timing of the cleavage furrow. Upon release from DCB block, G1 cells proceed through a rapid and synchronous cleavage. We conclude that the mitotic spindle is not inevitably destroyed at the end of mitosis, but persists as an integral structure with the telophase disc in the absence of cleavage. We also conclude that cell cleavage can occur in G1, and is therefore an event metabolically independent of mitosis. The retained telophase disc may indeed signal the position of furrow formation, as G1 cleavage occurs only in the position where the retained disc underlies the cell cortex. The protocol we describe should now enable development of a model system for the study of mammalian cell cleavage as a synchronous event independent of mitosis.

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