Metaphase PtK1 cells, lysed into polymerization-competent microtubule protein, maintain a spindle which will gain or lose birefringence depending on the concentration of disassembled tubulin subunits used in the lysis medium. Concentrations of tubulin subunits greater than the equilibrium monomer value promote a rate and extent of birefringence increase that is proportional to the subunit concentration. Increase in spindle birefringence can be correlated with an increase in tubule number, though the relationship is not strictly linear. Increase in spindle tubule number is due to an vivo-like initiation of tubules at the mitotic centers, as well as tubulin addition onto pre-existing spindle fragments. Colcemid-treated prometaphase cells lysed into polymerization-competent tubulin develop large asters in the region of the centrioles and short tubules at kinetochores, making it unlikely that all microtubule formation in lysed cell preparations is dependent on tubulin addition to short tubule fragments. Asters can also form in colcemid-treated prometaphase cells lysed in tubulin that is incapable of spontaneous tubule initiation, suggesting that the centriolar region serves a tubule-initiator function in our lysed cell preparations. The ability of the centriole to initiate microtubule assembly is a time-dependent process-a ripening effect takes place between prophase and late prometaphase. Ripening is expressed by an increase in the number and length of tubules found associated with the centriolar region.

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