Taxol blocks the migrations of the sperm and egg nuclei in fertilized eggs and induces asters in unfertilized eggs of the sea urchins Lytechinus variegatus and Arbacia punctulata. Video recordings of eggs inseminated in 10 microM taxol demonstrate that sperm incorporation and sperm tail motility are unaffected, that the sperm aster formed is unusually pronounced, and that the migration of the egg nucleus and pronuclear centration are inhibited. The huge monopolar aster persists for at least 6 h; cleavage attempts and nuclear cycles are observed. Colcemid (10 microM) disassembles both the large taxol-stabilized sperm aster in fertilized eggs and the numerous asters induced in unfertilized eggs. Antitubulin immunofluorescence microscopy demonstrates that in fertilized eggs all microtubules are within the prominent sperm aster. Within 15 min of treatment with 10 microM taxol, unfertilized eggs develop numerous (greater than 25) asters de novo. Transmission electron microscopy of unfertilized eggs reveals the presence of microtubule bundles that do not emanate from centrioles but rather from osmiophilic foci or, at times, the nuclear envelope. Taxol-treated eggs are not activated as judged by the lack of DNA synthesis, nuclear or chromosome cycles, and the cortical reaction. These results indicate that: (a) taxol prevents the normal cycles of microtubule assembly and disassembly observed during development; (b) microtubule disassembly is required for the nuclear movements during fertilization; (c) taxol induces microtubules in unfertilized eggs; and (d) nucleation centers other than centrioles and kinetochores exist within unfertilized eggs; these presumptive microtubule organizing centers appear idle in the presence of the sperm centrioles.

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