We have studied the effect of taxol on mitosis in Haemanthus endosperm. Immuno-Gold Stain (IGS), a new immunocytochemical method (17), was used to visualize microtubules (MTs) in the light microscope. Observations on MT arrangements were correlated with studies in vivo. Chromosome movements are affected in all stages of mitosis which progresses over at least 10(4) range of taxol concentrations. The three most characteristic effects on MTs are: (a) enhancement of the lateral associations between MTs, seen especially during the reorganization of the polar region of the spindle, (b) promotion of MT assembly, leading to the formation of additional MTs in the spindle and MT arrays in the cytoplasm, and (c) an increase in MT stability, demonstrated in their increased cold resistance. In this report, the emphasis is on the primary, immediate effects, occurring in the first 30 min of taxol action. Effects are detected after a few mins, are reversible, and are concentration/time dependent. The spindle and phragmoplast are remarkably modified due to the enhancement of lateral associations of MTs and the formation of abundant nonkinetochore and polar, asterlike MTs. The equatorial region of the interzone in anaphase may be entirely depleted of MTs, and the spindle may break perpendicular to the spindle axis. Mitosis is completed in these conditions, providing evidence for the motile autonomy of each half-spindle. Trailing chromosome arms in anaphase are often stretched and broken. Chromosome fragments are transported away from the polar regions, i.e., in the direction opposite to that expected (5, 6). This supplies the first direct evidence of pushing by elongating MTs in an anastral higher plant spindle. These observations draw attention to the relation between the lateral association of MT ends to assembly/disassembly and to the role of such an interaction in spindle function and organization.

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