We have studied the capture of microtubules by isolated metaphase chromosomes, using microtubules stabilized with taxol and marked with biotin tubulin to distinguish their plus and minus ends. The capture reaction is reversible at both the plus and minus ends. The on rate of capture is the same for both polarities but the dissociation rate from the kinetochore is seven times slower with microtubules captured at their plus ends than those captured at their minus ends. At steady state this disparity in off rates leads to the gradual replacement of microtubules captured at their minus ends with those captured at their plus ends. These results suggest that the kinetochore makes a lateral attachment near the end of the microtubule in the initial capture reaction and shows a structural specificity that may be important in proper bipolar attachment of the chromosome to the spindle.

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