Isolated mitotic apparatuses (MA) of clam and sea urchin eggs were investigated by polarizing and electron microscopy. Examination of fixed MA in oils of different refractive index revealed that at least 90% of the retardation of isolated MA is due to positive, form birefringence, the remaining retardation deriving from positive, intrinsic birefringence. Electron micrographs reveal the isolated MA to be composed of microtubules, ribosome-like particles, and a variety of vesicles. In the clam MA the number of vesicles and ribosome-like particles relative to the number of microtubules is much lower than in the sea urchin MA. In clam MA this allows form and intrinsic birefringence to be related directly to microtubules. The relation of birefringence to microtubules in isolated sea urchin MA is more complex since ribosome-like particles adhere to microtubules, are oriented by them, and are likely to contribute to the form birefringence of the isolated MA. However, comparison of values of retardation for clam and sea urchin MA, indicates that the major part of the birefringence in sea urchin MA is also due to microtubules. The interpretation of the structures giving rise to birefringence in the MA of the living cells is likely to be even more complex since masking substances, compression, or tension on the living MA may alter the magnitude or sign of the birefringence.

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