We have studied cytoskeletal architectures of isolated mitotic apparatus from sea urchin eggs using quick-freeze, deep-etch electron microscopy. This method revealed the existence of an extensive three-dimensional network of straight and branching crossbridges between spindle microtubules. The surface of the spindle microtubules was almost entirely covered with hexagonally packed, small, round button-like structures which were very uniform in shape and size (approximately 8 nm in diameter), and these microtubule buttons frequently provided bases for crossbridges between adjacent microtubules. These structures were removed from the surface of microtubules by high salt (0.6 M NaCl) extraction. Microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) and microtubules isolated from mitotic spindles which were mainly composed of a large amount of 75-kD protein and some high molecular mass (250 kD, 245 kD) proteins were polymerized in vitro and examined by quick-freeze, deep-etch electron microscopy. The surfaces of microtubules were entirely covered with the same hexagonally packed round buttons, the arrangement of which is intimately related to that of tubulin dimers. Short crossbridges and some longer crossbridges were also observed. High salt treatment (0.6 M NaCl) extracted both 75-kD protein and high molecular weight proteins and removed microtubule buttons and most of crossbridges from the surface of microtubules. Considering the relatively high amount of 75-kD protein among MAPs isolated from mitotic spindles, it is concluded that these microtubule buttons probably consist of 75-kD MAP and that some of the crossbridges in vivo could belong to MAPs. Another kind of granule, larger in size (11-26 nm in diameter), was also on occasion associated with the surface of microtubules of mitotic spindles. A fine sidearm sometimes connected the larger granule to adjacent microtubules. Localization of cytoplasmic dynein ATPase in the mitotic spindle was investigated by electron microscopic immunocytochemistry with a monoclonal antibody (D57) against sea urchin sperm flagellar 21S dynein and colloidal gold-labeled second antibody. Immunogold particles were closely associated with spindle microtubules. 76% of these were within 50 nm and 55% were within 20 nm from the surface of the microtubules. These gold particles were sporadically found on both polar and kinetochore microtubules of half-spindles at both metaphase and anaphase. They localized also on the microtubules between sister chromatids in late anaphase. These data indicate that cytoplasmic dynein is attached to the microtubules in sea urchin mitotic spindles.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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