The role of the kinetochore in chromosome movement was studied by 532-nm wavelength laser microirradiation of mitotic PtK2 cells. When the kinetochore of a single chromatid is irradiated at mitotic prometaphase or metaphase, the whole chromosome moves towards the pole to which the unirradiated kinetochore is oriented, while the remaining chromosomes congregate on the metaphase plate. The chromatids of the irradiated chromosome remain attached to one another until anaphase, at which time they separate by a distance of 1 or 2 micrometers and remain parallel to each other, not undergoing any poleward separation. Electron microscopy shows that irradiated chromatids exhibit either no recognizable kinetochore structure or a typical inactive kinetochore in which the tri-layer structure is present but has no microtubules associated with it. Graphical analysis of the movement of the irradiated chromosome shows that the chromosome moves to the pole rapidly with a velocity of approximately 3 micrometers/min. If the chromosome is close to one pole at irradiation, and the kinetochore oriented towards that pole is irradiated, the chromosome moves across the spindle to the opposite pole. The chromosome is slowed down as it traverses the equatorial region, but the velocity in both half-spindles is approximately the same as the anaphase velocity of a single chromatid. Thus a single kinetochore moves twice the normal mass of chromatin (two chromatids) at the same velocity with which it moves a single chromatid, showing that the velocity with which a kinetochore moves is independent, within limits, of the mass associated with it.

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