We have examined the cortex of Caenorhabditis elegans eggs during pseudocleavage (PC), a period of the first cell cycle which is important for the generation of asymmetry at first cleavage (Strome, S. 1989. Int. Rev. Cytol. 114: 81-123). We have found that directed, actin dependent, cytoplasmic, and cortical flow occurs during this period coincident with a rearrangement of the cortical actin cytoskeleton (Strome, S. 1986. J. Cell Biol. 103: 2241-2252). The flow velocity (4-7 microns/min) is similar to previously determined particle movements driven by cortical actin flows in motile cells. We show that directed flows occur in one of the daughters of the first division that itself divides asymmetrically, but not in its sister that divides symmetrically. The cortical and cytoplasmic events of PC can be mimicked in other cells during cytokinesis by displacing the mitotic apparatus with the microtubule polymerization inhibitor nocodazole. In all cases, the polarity of the resulting cortical and cytoplasmic flows correlates with the position of the attenuated mitotic spindle formed. These cortical flows are also accompanied by a change in the distribution of the cortical actin network. The polarity of this redistribution is similarly correlated with the location of the attenuated spindle. These observations suggest a mechanism for generating polarized flows of cytoplasmic and cortical material during embryonic cleavages. We present a model for the events of PC and suggest how the poles of the mitotic spindle mediate the formation of the contractile ring during cytokinesis in C. elegans.

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