Microtubules mediate mitochondrial distribution in the yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe and many higher eukaryotic cells. In higher eukaryotes, kinesin motor proteins have been shown to transport mitochondria along microtubules, but the nature of the mitochondria-microtubule interactions in S. pombe has not been explored. By time lapse, total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, or spinning-disk confocal microscopy, mitochondria appeared to be both tethered to ends and bound laterally along the sides of microtubules. Mitochondrial tubules extended and retracted when attached to the tips of elongating or shortening microtubules, respectively, but translocation along established microtubules was never observed. Mitochondria that were not associated with microtubules were largely immobile until they were "captured" by a growing microtubule. In mitotic cells, a portion of the mitochondria was tethered to the spindle-pole bodies and moved to the cellular ends during spindle elongation. This association may be important for organelle inheritance during cell division. Thus, in contrast to kinesin-mediated transport used by higher eukaryotes, mitochondrial motility and distribution in fission yeast are driven largely by microtubule polymerization and the elongation of the mitotic spindle.