During the movement of chromosomes in anaphase, microtubules that extend between the kinetochores and the poles shorten. We sought to determine where subunits are lost from these microtubules during their shortening. Prophase or prometaphase cells on coverslips were injected with fluoresceinated tubulin and allowed to progress through mitosis. Immediately after the onset of anaphase, a bar-shaped beam of laser light was used to mark a domain on the kinetochore fibers by photobleaching a band, approximately 1.0 micron wide, across the spindle. In different cells, spindles were photobleached at varying distances from the chromosomes. Cells were allowed to continue in anaphase until the chromosomes had further separated. They were then lysed, fixed, and prepared for double-label immunofluorescence with an antibody to fluorescein that does not bind appreciably to bleached fluorescein, and with an antibody to tubulin. Photobleached domains of microtubules appeared as bands of reduced fluorescence in the anti-fluorescein image. However, the anti-tubulin labeling revealed that microtubules were present and continuous through the photobleached domains. In all cases, the chromosomes approached and invaded the bleached domain while the bleached domain itself remained stationary with respect to the near pole. These results demonstrate that the chromosomes move along stationary kinetochore microtubules and that depolymerization of these microtubules during anaphase takes place at the kinetochore. In contrast to the generally accepted older view that chromosomes are passive objects pulled by "traction fibers," we suggest that the kinetochore is an active participant in generating the motive force that propels the chromosome to the pole.

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