The surface distribution of concanavalin A (Con A) bound to cell membrane receptors varies dramatically as a function of mitotic phase. The lectin is distributed diffusely on cells labeled and observed between mid-prophase and early anaphase, whereas cells observed in late anaphase or telophase demonstrate a marked accumulation of Con A-receptor complexes over the developing cleavage furrow (Berlin, Oliver, and Walter. 1978. Cell. 15:327-341). In this report, we first use a system based on video intensification fluorescence microscopy to describe the simultaneous changes in cell shape and in lectin-receptor complex topography during progression of single cells through the mitotic cycle. The video analysis establishes that fluorescein succinyl Con A (F-S Con A)-receptor complex redistribution begins coincident with the first appearance of the cleavage furrow and is essentially complete within 2-3 min. This remarkable redistribution of surface fluorescence occurs during only a modest change in cell shape from a sphere to a belted cylinder. It reflects the translocation of complexes and not the accumulation of excess labeled membrane in the cleavage furrow: first, bound fluorescent cholera toxin which faithfully outlines the plasma membrane is not accumulated in the cleavage furrow, and, second, electron microscopy of peroxidase-Con A labeled cells undergoing cleavage shows that there is a high linear density of lectin within the furrow while Con A is virtually eliminated from the poles. The rate of surface movement of F-S Con A was quantitated by photon counting during a repetitive series of laser-excited fluorescence scans across dividing cells. Results were analyzed in terms of two alternative models of movement: a flow model in which complexes moved unidirectionally at constant velocity, and a diffusion model in which complexes could diffuse freely but were trapped at the cleavage furrow. According to these models, the observed rates of accumulation were attainable at either an effective flow velocity of approximately 1 micron/min, or an effective diffusion coefficient of approximately 10(-9) cm2/s. However, in separate experiments the lectin-receptor diffusion rate measured directly by the method of fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) on metaphase cells was only approximately 10(-10) cm2/s. Most importantly, photobleaching experiments during the actual period of F-S Con A accumulation showed that lectin-receptor movement during cleavage occurs unidirectionally. These results rule out diffusion and make a process of oriented flow of ligand-receptor complexes the most likely mechanism for ligand-receptor accumulation in the cleavage furrow.

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