We have studied the morphology of nuclei in Drosophila embryos during the syncytial blastoderm stages. Nuclei in living embryos were viewed with differential interference-contrast optics; in addition, both isolated nuclei and fixed preparations of whole embryos were examined after staining with a DNA-specific fluorescent dye. We find that: (a) The nuclear volumes increase dramatically during interphase and then decrease during prophase of each nuclear cycle, with the magnitude of the nuclear volume increase being greatest for those cycles with the shortest interphase. (b) Oxygen deprivation of embryos produces a rapid developmental arrest that is reversible upon reaeration. During this arrest, interphase chromosomes condense against the nuclear envelope and the nuclear volumes increase dramatically. In these nuclei, individual chromosomes are clearly visible, and each condensed chromosome can be seen to adhere along its entire length to the inner surface of the swollen nuclear envelope, leaving the lumen of the nucleus devoid of DNA. (c) In each interphase nucleus the chromosomes are oriented in the "telophase configuration," with all centromeres and all telomeres at opposite poles of the nucleus; all nuclei at the embryo periphery (with the exception of the pole cell nuclei) are oriented with their centromeric poles pointing to the embryo exterior.

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