We have analyzed the fine structure of 10 chromosomal fibers from mitotic spindles of PtK1 cells in metaphase and anaphase, using electron microscopy of serial thin sections and computer image processing to follow the trajectories of the component microtubules (MTs) in three dimensions. Most of the kinetochore MTs ran from their kinetochore to the vicinity of the pole, retaining a clustered arrangement over their entire length. This MT bundle was invaded by large numbers of other MTs that were not associated with kinetochores. The invading MTs frequently came close to the kinetochore MTs, but a two-dimensional analysis of neighbor density failed to identify any characteristic spacing between the two MT classes. Unlike the results from neighbor density analyses of interzone MTs, the distributions of spacings between kinetochore MTs and other spindle MTs revealed no evidence for strong MT-MT interactions. A three-dimensional analysis of distances of closest approach between kinetochore MTs and other spindle MTs has, however, shown that the most common distances of closest approach were 30-50 nm, suggesting a weak interaction between kinetochore MTs and their neighbors. The data support the ideas that kinetochore MTs form a mechanical connection between the kinetochore and the pericentriolar material that defines the pole, but that the mechanical interactions between kinetochore MTs and other spindle MTs are weak.

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