Sea urchin eggs are used to investigate the involvement of spindle microtubules in the mechanisms that control the timing of cell cycle events. Eggs are treated for 4 min with Colcemid at prophase of the first mitosis. No microtubules are assembled for at least 3 h, and the eggs do not divide. These eggs show repeated cycles of nuclear envelope breakdown (NEB) and nuclear envelope reformation (NER). Mitosis (NEB to NER) is twice as long in Colcemid-treated eggs as in the untreated controls. Interphase (NER to NEB) is the same in both. Thus, each cycle is prolonged entirely in mitosis. The chromosomes of treated eggs condense and eventually split into separate chromatids which do not move apart. This "canaphase" splitting is substantially delayed relative to anaphase onset in the control eggs. Treated eggs are irradiated after NEB with 366-nm light to inactivate the Colcemid. This allows the eggs to assemble normal spindles and divide. Up to 14 min after NEB, delays in the start of microtubule assembly give equal delays in anaphase onset, cleavage, and the events of the following cell cycle. Regardless of the delay, anaphase follows irradiation by the normal prometaphase duration. The quantity of spindle microtubules also influences the timing of mitotic events. Short Colcemid treatments administered in prophase of second division cause eggs to assemble small spindles. One blastomere is irradiated after NEB to provide a control cell with a normal-sized spindle. Cells with diminished spindles always initiate anaphase later than their controls. Telophase events are correspondingly delayed. This work demonstrates that spindle microtubules are involved in the mechanisms that control the time when the cell will initiate anaphase, finish mitosis, and start the next cell cycle.

This content is only available as a PDF.