Before forming a monopolar attachment to the closest spindle pole, chromosomes attaching in newt (Taricha granulosa) pneumocytes generally reside in an optically clear region of cytoplasm that is largely devoid of cytoskeletal components, organelles, and other chromosomes. We have previously demonstrated that chromosome attachment in these cells occurs when an astral microtubule contacts one of the kinetochores (Hayden, J., S. S. Bowser, and C. L. Rieder. 1990. J. Cell Biol. 111:1039-1045), and that once this association is established the chromosome can be transported poleward along the surface of the microtubule (Rieder, C. L., and S. P. Alexander. 1990. J. Cell Biol. 110:81-95). In the study reported here we used video enhanced differential interference contrast light microscopy and digital image processing to compare, at high spatial and temporal resolution (0.1 microns and 0.93 s, respectively), the microtubule-mediated poleward movement of attaching chromosomes and poleward moving particles on the spindle. The results of this analysis demonstrate obvious similarities between minus end-directed particle motion on the newt pneumocyte spindle and the motion of attaching chromosomes. This is consistent with the hypothesis that both are driven by a similar force-generating mechanism. We then used the Brownian displacements of particles in the vicinity of attaching chromosomes to calculate the apparent viscosity of cytoplasm through which the chromosomes were moving. From these data, and that from our kinetic analyses and previous work, we calculate the force-producing potential of nascent kinetochore fibers in newt pneumocytes to be approximately 0.1-7.4 x 10(-6) dyn/microtubule) This is essentially equivalent to that calculated by Nicklas (Nicklas, R.B. 1988. Annu. Rev. Biophys. Biophys. Chem. 17:431-449) for prometaphase (4 x 10(-6) dyn/microtubule) and anaphase (5 x 10(-6) dyn/microtubule) chromosomes in Melanoplus. Thus, within the limits of experimental error, there appears to be a remarkable consistency in force production per microtubule throughout the various stages of mitosis and between groups of diverse taxonomic affinities.

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