In vivo mitotic spindle scaling can be modulated by changing the levels of a single protein: the microtubule polymerase XMAP215. Academic Article uri icon


  • In many organisms, early embryonic development is characterized by a series of reductive cell divisions that result in rapid increases in cell number and concomitant decreases in cell size. Intracellular organelles, such as the nucleus and mitotic spindle, also become progressively smaller during this developmental window, but the molecular and mechanistic underpinnings of these scaling relationships are not fully understood. For the mitotic spindle, changes in cytoplasmic volume are sufficient to account for size scaling during early development in certain organisms. This observation is consistent with models that evoke a limiting component, whereby the smaller absolute number of spindle components in smaller cells limits spindle size. Here we investigate the role of a candidate factor for developmental spindle scaling, the microtubule polymerase XMAP215. Microinjection of additional XMAP215 protein into Xenopus laevis embryos was sufficient to induce the assembly of larger spindles during developmental stages 6.5, 7, and 8, whereas addition of a polymerase-incompetent XMAP215 mutant resulted in a downward shift in the in vivo spindle scaling curve. In sum, these results indicate that even small cells are able to produce larger spindles if microtubule growth rates are increased and suggest that structural components are not limiting.

publication date

  • June 1, 2018