Infection of baby hamster kidney (BHK21-F) cells with the parainfluenza virus SV5 causes rapid and extensive cell fusion. Time-lapse cinematography shows that when cells fuse, their nuclei migrate straight to the center of the syncytium at rates of 1–2 µ/min. Nuclei are often arranged in long, tightly packed, parallel rows in syncytia derived from the fibroblastic BHK21-F cells. Polarization microscopy shows birefringent material between and parallel to these rows of nuclei, and electron microscopy shows bundles of cytoplasmic microtubules, ∼250 A in diameter, and filaments, ∼80 A in diameter, parallel to and between the rows of nuclei. Colchicine treatment causes disappearance of microtubules from BHK21-F cells and an apparent increase in the number of 80-A filaments. Although colchicine-treated, SV5-infected cells fuse, their nuclei do not migrate or form rows but remain randomly scattered through the syncytial cytoplasm. Incubation at 4°C does not disrupt microtubules in BHK21-F cells. Rows of nuclei have been isolated from SV5-induced syncytia, and the nuclei in them have been found to be intimately associated with microtubules but not with other cytoplasmic structures. These results suggest that microtubules demarcate cytoplasmic channels through which nuclei migrate and that they may also be involved in the mechanism of nuclear movement.

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