One recent hypothesis for the mechanism of chromosome movement during mitosis predicts that a continual, uniform, poleward flow or "treadmilling" of microtubules occurs within the half-spindle between the chromosomes and the poles during mitosis (Margolis, R. L., and L. Wilson, 1981, Nature (Lond.), 293:705-711). We have tested this treadmilling hypothesis using fluorescent analog cytochemistry and measurements of fluorescence redistribution after photobleaching to examine microtubule behavior during metaphase of mitosis. Mitotic BSC 1 mammalian tissue culture cells or newt lung epithelial cells were microinjected with brain tubulin labeled with 5-(4,6-dichlorotriazin-2-yl) amino fluorescein (DTAF) to provide a fluorescent tracer of the endogenous tubulin pool. Using a laser microbeam, fluorescence in the half-spindle was photobleached in either a narrow 1.6 micron wide bar pattern across the half-spingle or in a circular area of 2.8 or 4.5 micron diameter. Fluorescence recovery in the spindle fibers, measured using video microscopy or photometric techniques, occurs as bleached DTAF-tubulin subunits within the microtubules are exchanged for unbleached DTAF-tubulin in the cytosol by steady-state microtubule assembly-disassembly pathways. Recovery of 75% of the bleached fluorescence follows first-order kinetics and has an average half-time of 37 sec, at 31-33 degrees C. No translocation of the bleached bar region could be detected during fluorescence recovery, and the rate of recovery was independent of the size of the bleached spot. These results reveal that, for 75% of the half-spindle microtubules, FRAP does not occur by a synchronous treadmilling mechanism.

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