Taxol, a microtubule stabilizing drug, induces the formation of numerous microtubule asters in the cytoplasm of mitotic cells (De Brabander, M., G. Geuens, R. Nuydens, R. Willebrords, J. DeMey. 1981. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 78:5608-5612). The center of these asters share with spindle poles some characteristics such as the presence of centrosomal material and calmodulin. We have recently reproduced the assembly of taxol asters in a cell-free system (Buendia, B., C. Antony, F. Verde, M. Bornens, and E. Karsenti. 1990. J. Cell Sci. 97:259-271) using extracts of Xenopus eggs. In this paper, we show that taxol aster assembly requires phosphorylation, and that they do not grow from preformed centers, but rather by a reorganization of microtubules first crosslinked into bundles. This process seems to involve sliding of microtubules along each other and we show that cytoplasmic dynein is required for taxol aster assembly. This result provides a possible functional basis to the recent findings, that dynein is present in the spindle and enriched near spindle poles (Pfarr, C. M., M. Cove, P. M. Grissom, T. S. Hays, M. E. Porter, and J. R. McIntosh. 1990. Nature (Lond.). 345:263-265; Steuer, E. R., L. Wordeman, T. A. Schroer, and M. P. Sheetz. 1990. Nature (Lond.). 345:266-268).

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