Mature Drosophila oocytes are arrested in metaphase of the first meiotic division. We have examined microtubule and chromatin reorganization as the meiosis I spindle assembles on maturation using indirect immunofluorescence and laser scanning confocal microscopy. The results suggest that chromatin captures or nucleates microtubules, and that these subsequently form a highly tapered spindle in which the majority of microtubules do not terminate at the poles. Nonexchange homologs separate from each other and move toward opposite poles during spindle assembly. By the time of metaphase arrest, these chromosomes are positioned on opposite half spindles, between the metaphase plate and the spindle poles, with the large nonexchange X chromosomes always closer to the metaphase plate than the smaller nonexchange fourth chromosomes. Nonexchange homologs are therefore oriented on the spindle in the absence of a direct physical linkage, and the spindle position of these chromosomes appears to be determined by size. Loss-of-function mutations at the nod locus, which encodes a kinesin-like protein, cause meiotic loss and nondisjunction of nonexchange chromosomes, but have little or no effect on exchange chromosome segregation. In oocytes lacking functional nod protein, most of the nonexchange chromosomes are ejected from the main chromosomal mass shortly after the nuclear envelope breaks down and microtubules interact with the chromatin. In addition, the nonexchange chromosomes that are associated with spindles in nod/nod oocytes show excessive poleward migration. Based on these observations, and the structural similarity of the nod protein and kinesin, we propose that nonexchange chromosomes are maintained on the half spindle by opposing poleward and anti-poleward forces, and that the nod protein provides the anti-poleward force.

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