The development of a uninucleate ameba into a multinucleate, syncytial plasmodium in myxomycetes involves a change from the open, astral mitosis of the ameba to the intranuclear, anastral mitosis of the plasmodium, and the omission of cytokinesis from the cell cycle. We describe immunofluorescence microscopic studies of the amebal-plasmodial transition (APT) in Physarum polycephalum. We demonstrate that the reorganization of mitotic spindles commences in uninucleate cells after commitment to plasmodium formation, is completed by the binucleate stage, and occurs via different routes in individual developing cells. Most uninucleate developing cells formed mitotic spindles characteristic either of amebae or of plasmodia. However, chimeric mitotic figures exhibiting features of both amebal and plasmodial mitoses, and a novel star microtubular array were also observed. The loss of the ameba-specific alpha 3-tubulin and the accumulation of the plasmodium-specific beta 2-tubulin isotypes during development were not sufficient to explain the changes in the organization of mitotic spindles. The majority of uninucleate developing cells undergoing astral mitoses (amebal and chimeric) exhibited cytokinetic furrows, whereas cells with the anastral plasmodial mitosis exhibited no furrows. Thus, the transition from astral to anastral mitosis during the APT could be sufficient for the omission of cytokinesis from the cell cycle. However, astral mitosis may not ensure cytokinesis: some cells undergoing amebal or chimeric mitosis contained unilateral cytokinetic furrows or no furrow at all. These cells would, most probably, fail to divide. We suggest that a uninucleate committed cell undergoing amebal or chimeric mitosis can either divide or else form a binucleate cell. In contrast, a uninucleate cell with a mitotic spindle of the plasmodial type gives rise only to a binucleate cells. Further, the decision to enter mitosis after commitment to the APT is independent of the developmental changes in the organization of the mitotic spindle and cytokinesis.

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