NuMA (Nuclear protein that associates with the Mitotic Apparatus) is a 235-kD intranuclear protein that accumulates at the pericentrosomal region of the mitotic spindle in vertebrate cells. To determine if NuMA plays an active role in organizing the microtubules at the polar region of the mitotic spindle, we have developed a cell free system for the assembly of mitotic asters derived from synchronized cultured cells. Mitotic asters assembled in this extract are composed of microtubules arranged in a radial array that contain NuMA concentrated at the central core. The organization of microtubules into asters in this cell free system is dependent on NuMA because immunodepletion of NuMA from the extract results in randomly dispersed microtubules instead of organized mitotic asters, and addition of the purified recombinant NuMA protein to the NuMA-depleted extract fully reconstitutes the organization of the microtubules into mitotic asters. Furthermore, we show that NuMA is phosphorylated upon mitotic aster assembly and that NuMA is only required in the late stages of aster assembly in this cell free system consistent with the temporal accumulation of NuMA at the polar ends of the mitotic spindle in vivo. These results, in combination with the phenotype observed in vivo after the prevention of NuMA from targeting onto the mitotic spindle by antibody microinjection, suggest that NuMA plays a functional role in the organization of the microtubules of the mitotic spindle.

This content is only available as a PDF.