Spindle microtubules (MTs) in PtK1 cells, fixed at stages from metaphase to telophase, have been reconstructed using serial sections, electron microscopy, and computer image processing. We have studied the class of MTs that form an interdigitating system connecting the two spindle poles (interpolar MTs or ipMTs) and their relationship to the spindle MTs that attach to kinetochores (kMTs). Viewed in cross section, the ipMTs cluster with antiparallel near neighbors throughout mitosis; this bundling becomes much more pronounced as anaphase proceeds. While the minus ends of most kMTs are near the poles, those of the ipMTs are spread over half of the spindle length, with at least 50% lying > 1.5 microns from the poles. Longitudinal views of the ipMT bundles demonstrate a major rearrangement of their plus ends between mid- and late anaphase B. However, the minus ends of these MTs do not move appreciably farther from the spindle midplane, suggesting that sliding of these MTs contributes little to anaphase B. The minus ends of ipMTs are markedly clustered in the bundles of kMTs throughout anaphase A. These ends lie close to kMTs much more frequently than would be expected by chance, suggesting a specific interaction. As sister kinetochores separate and kMTs shorten, the minus ends of the kMTs remain associated with the spindle poles, but the minus ends of many ipMTs are released from the kMT bundles, allowing the spindle pole and the kMTs to move away from the ipMTs as the spindle elongates.
Mitotic spindles of Schizosaccharomyces pombe have been studied by EM, using serial cross sections to reconstruct 12 spindles from cells that were ultrarapidly frozen and fixed by freeze substitution. The resulting distributions of microtubules (MTs) have been analyzed by computer. Short spindles contain two kinds of MTs: continuous ones that run from pole to pole and MTs that originate at one pole and end in the body of the spindle. Among the latter there are three pairs of MT bundles that end on fibrous, darkly staining structures that we interpret as kinetochores. The number of MTs ending at each putative kinetochore ranges from two to four; all kinetochore-associated MTs disappear as the spindle elongates from 3-6 microns. At this and greater spindle lengths, there are no continuous MTs, only polar MTs that interdigitate at the spindle midzone, but the spindle continues to elongate. An analysis of the density of neighboring MTs at the midzone of long spindles shows that their most common spacing is approximately 40 nm, center to center, and that there is a preferred angular separation of 90 degrees. Only hints of such square-packing are found at the midzone of short spindles, and near the poles there is no apparent order at any mitotic stage. Our data suggest that the kinetochore MTs (KMTs) do not interact directly with nonkinetochore MTs, but that interdigitating MTs from the two spindle poles do interact to form a mechanically stable bundle that connects the poles. As the spindle elongates, the number of MTs decreases while the mean length of the MTs that remain increases. We conclude that the chromosomes of S. pombe become attached to the spindle by kinetochore MTs, that these MTs disappear as the chromosomes segregate, that increased separation of daughter nuclei is accompanied by a sliding apart of anti-parallel MTs, and that the mitotic processes of S. pombe are much like those in other eukaryotic cells.