Mitotic spindles were isolated from a cell division cycle mutant of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae by the lysis of sphateroplasts on an air:buffer interface and were negatively stained with 1% gold thioglucose. Isolated spindles were incubated under conditions which promoted the sliding disintegration of parallel preparations of Tetrahymena axonemes, namely the addition of ATP to 20 microM. In no experiment was a corresponding change in microtubule organization of the spindle observed even when spindles were first pretreated with either 1-10 microgram/ml trypsin or 0.2-2% Triton X-100. During these experiments a number of spindles were isolated from cells that had passed through the imposed temperature block, and from the images obtained a detailed model of spindle formation and elongation has been constructed. Two sets of microtubules, one from each spindle pole body (SPB), completely interdigitate to form a continuous bundle, and a series of discontinuous microtubules are then nucleated by each SPB. As the spindle elongates, the number of microtubules continuous between the two SPBs decreases until, at a length of 4 micrometer, only one remains. The spindle, composed of only one microtubule, continues to elongate until it reaches the maximal nuclear dimension of 8 micrometer. The data obtained from negatively stained preparations have been verified in thin sections of wild-type cells. We suggest that, as in the later stages of mitosis only one microtubule is involved in the separation of the spindle poles, the microtubular spindle in S. cerevisiae is not a force-generating system but rather acts as a regulatory mechanism controlling the rate of separation.

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