Cells of onion and garlic root tips were examined under the electron and phase contrast microscopes after fixation in KMnO4. Special attention was focused on the distribution and behavior of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) during the several phases of mitosis.
Slender profiles, recognized as sections through thin lamellar units of the ER (most prominent in KMnO4-fixed material), are distributed more or less uniformly in the cytoplasm of interphase cells and show occasional continuity with the nuclear envelope. In late prophase the nuclear envelope breaks down and its remnants plus cytoplasmic elements of the ER, which are morphologically identical, surround the spindle in a zone from which mitochondria, etc., are excluded. During metaphase these ER elements persist and concentrate as two separate systems in the polar caps or zones of the spindle. At about this same time they begin to proliferate and to invade the ends of the spindle. The invading lamellar units form drape-like partitions between the anaphase chromosomes. In late anaphase, their advancing margins reach the middle zone of the spindle and begin to fray out. Finally, in telophase, while elements of the ER in the poles of the spindle coalesce around the chromosomes to form the new envelope, the advancing edges of those in the middle zone reticulate at the level of the equator to form a close lattice of tubular elements. Within this, which is identified as the phragmoplast, the earliest signs of the cell plate appear in the form of small vesicles. These subsequently grow and fuse to complete the separation of the two protoplasts. Other morphological units apparently participating in mitosis are described.
Speculation is provided on the equal division or not of the nuclear envelope and the contribution the envelope fragments make to the ER of the new cell.