We have used micromanipulation to study the attachment of chromosomes to the spindle and the mechanical properties of the chromosomal spindle fibers. Individual chromosomes can be displaced about the periphery of the spindle, in the plane of the metaphase plate, without altering the structure of the spindle or the positions of the nonmanipulated chromosomes. From mid-prometaphase through the onset of anaphase, chromosomes resist displacement toward either spindle pole, or beyond the spindle periphery. In anaphase a chromosome can be displaced either toward its spindle pole or laterally, beyond the periphery of the spindle; however, the chromosome resists displacement away from the spindle pole. When an anaphase half-bivalent is displaced toward its spindle pole, it stops migrating until the nonmanipulated half-bivalents reach a similar distance from the pole. The manipulated half-bivalent then resumes its poleward migration at the normal anaphase rate. No evidence was found for mechanical attachments between separating half-bivalents in anaphase. Our observations demonstrate that chromosomes are individually anchored to the spindle by fibers which connect the kinetochores of the chromosomes to the spindle poles. These fibers are flexible, much less extensible than the chromosomes, and are to pivot about their attachment points. While the fibers are able to support a tensile force sufficient to stretch a chromosome, they buckle when subjected to a compressive force. Preliminary evidence suggests that the mechanical attachment fibers detected with micromanipulation correspond to the birefringent chromosomal spindle fibers observed with polarization microscopy.

This content is only available as a PDF.