High voltage electron microscopic tomography was used to determine the organization of the kinetochore plate and its attachment to the underlying chromosome. Six reconstructions were computed from thick sections of Colcemid-treated PtK1 cells and analyzed by a number of computer graphics methods including extensive thin slicing, three-dimensional masking, and volume rendering. When viewed en-face the kinetochore plate appeared to be constructed from a scaffold of numerous 10-20-nm thick fibers or rods. Although the fibers exhibited regions of parallel alignment and hints of a lattice, they were highly variable in length, orientation and spacing. When viewed in stereo, groups of these fibers were often seen oriented in different directions at different depths to give an overall matted appearance to the structure. When viewed "on edge," the plate was 35-40 nm thick, and in thin slices many regions were tripartite with electron-opaque domains, separated by a more translucent middle layer, forming the inner and outer plate boundaries. These domains were joined at irregular intervals. In some slices, each domain appeared as a linear array of 10-20-nm dots or rods embedded in a less electron-opaque matrix, and adjacent dots within or between domains often appeared fused to form larger blocks. The plate was connected to the underlying chromosome by less densely arrayed 10-20-nm thick fibers that contacted the chromosome-facing (i.e., inner) surface of the plate in numerous patches. These patches tended to be arrayed in parallel rows perpendicular to the long axis of the chromosome. In contrast to connecting fibers, corona fibers were more uniformly distributed over the cytoplasmic-facing (i.e., outer) surface of the plate. When large portions of the reconstructions were viewed, either en-face or in successive slices parallel to the long axis of the chromosome, the edges of the plate appeared splayed into multiple "fingers" that partly encircled the primary constriction. Together these observations reveal that regions of the kinetochore outer plate contain separate structural domains, which we hypothesize to serve separate functional roles. Our three-dimensional images of the kinetochore are largely consistent with the hypothesis that the outer plate is composed of multiple identical subunits (Zinkowski, R. P., J. Meyne, and B. R. Brinkley. 1991. J. Cell Biol. 113:1091-1110).

This content is only available as a PDF.