Microtubules in the mitotic spindles of newt lung cells were marked using local photoactivation of fluorescence. The movement of marked segments on kinetochore fibers was tracked by digital fluorescence microscopy in metaphase and anaphase and compared to the rate of chromosome movement. In metaphase, kinetochore oscillations toward and away from the poles were coupled to kinetochore fiber shortening and growth. Marked zones on the kinetochore microtubules, meanwhile, moved slowly polewards at a rate of approximately 0.5 micron/min, which identifies a slow polewards movement, or "flux," of kinetochore microtubules accompanied by depolymerization at the pole, as previously found in PtK2 cells (Mitchison, 1989b). Marks were never seen moving away from the pole, indicating that growth of the kinetochore microtubules occurs only at their kinetochore ends. In anaphase, marked zones on kinetochore microtubules also moved polewards, though at a rate slower than overall kinetochore-to-pole movement. Early in anaphase-A, microtubule depolymerization at kinetochores accounted on average for 75% of the rate of chromosome-to-pole movement, and depolymerization at the pole accounted for 25%. When chromosome-to-pole movement slowed in late anaphase, the contribution of depolymerization at the kinetochores lessened, and flux became the dominant component in some cells. Over the whole course of anaphase-A, depolymerization at kinetochores accounted on average for 63% of kinetochore fiber shortening, and flux for 37%. In some anaphase cells up to 45% of shortening resulted from the action of flux. We conclude that kinetochore microtubules change length predominantly through polymerization and depolymerization at the kinetochores during both metaphase and anaphase as the kinetochores move away from and towards the poles. Depolymerization, though not polymerization, also occurs at the pole during metaphase and anaphase, so that flux contributes to polewards chromosome movements throughout mitosis. Poleward force production for chromosome movements is thus likely to be generated by at least two distinct molecular mechanisms.

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