We show here using time-lapse video tapes that cytoplasmic streaming causes nuclear migration along the anterior-posterior axis (axial expansion) in the early syncytial embryo of Drosophila melanogaster. Using confocal microscopy and labeled phalloidin we explore the distribution of F-actin during axial expansion. We find that a network of F-actin fibers fills the cytoplasm in the embryo. This actin network partially disassembles around the nuclei during axial expansion. Our observations of normal development, fixed embryos, and drug injection experiments indicate that disassembly of the actin network generates cytoplasmic movements. We suggest that the cell cycle regulates disassembly of the actin network, and that this process may be mediated directly or indirectly by the microtubules. The cytoplasmic movements we observe during axial expansion are very similar to fountain streaming in the pseudopod of amoebae, and by analogy with the pseudopod we propose a working hypothesis for axial expansion based on solation-contraction coupling within the actin network.

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