Rat liver Golgi stacks fragmented when incubated with mitotic but not interphase cytosol in a process dependent on time, temperature, energy (added in the form of ATP) and cdc2 kinase. The cross-sectional length of Golgi stacks fell in the presence of mitotic cytosol by approximately 50% over 30 min without a corresponding decrease in the number of cisternae in the stack. The loss of membrane from stacked and single cisternae occurred with a half-time of approximately 20 min, and was matched by the appearance of both small (50-100 nm in diameter) and large (100-200 nm in diameter) vesicular profiles. Small vesicular profiles constituted more than 50% of the total membrane after 60 min of incubation and they were shown to be vesicles or very short tubules by serial sectioning. In the presence of GTP gamma S all of the small vesicles were COP-coated and both the extent and the rate at which they formed were sufficient to account for the production of small vesicles during mitotic incubation. The involvement of the COP-mediated budding mechanism was confirmed by immunodepletion of one of the subunits of COP coats (the coatomer) from mitotic cytosol. Vesicles were no longer formed but highly fenestrated networks appeared, an effect reversed by the readdition of purified coatomer. Together these experiments provide strong support for our hypothesis that the observed vesiculation of the Golgi apparatus during mitosis in animal cells is caused by continued budding of COP-coated transport vesicles but an inhibition of their fusion with their target membranes.

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