Epithelial cells cultured from the lung of the Northwest rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa granulosa) were subjected to brief (10-15 min) elevated temperature shocks of 33 degrees-36 degrees C during metaphase. Electron microscope studies on these cells reveal that the spindle microtubules (Mts) are differentially stable to heat treatment. The great majority of nonkinetochore Mts are destroyed within the first few minutes of the shock while kinetochore and adjacent Mts rearrange to form hexagonal closely packed structures before disassembling, the latter occurring only after prolonged heat treatment. The significance and theoretical implications of the formation of hexagonal closely packed Mt structures and of the differential stability of spindle Mts to heating are discussed. The data suggest the existence of one or more heat-sensitive structural component(s) which maintain the individual minimum spacing seen between spindle Mts. To our knowledge, this is the first reported instance of the experimental rearrangement of kinetochore Mts into reversible, hexagonal closely packed bundles.

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