A morphological analysis of the organizational changes in the type III intermediate filament (IF) system in dividing baby hamster kidney (BHK-21) cells was carried out by immunofluorescence and immunoelectron microscopy. The most dramatic change occurred during prometaphase, when the typical network of long 10-nm-diameter IF characteristic of interphase cells disassembled into aggregates containing short 4-6 nm filaments. During anaphase-telophase, arrays of short IF reappeared throughout the cytoplasm, and, in cytokinesis, the majority of IF were longer and concentrated in a juxtanuclear cap. These results demonstrate that the relatively stable IF cytoskeletal system of interphase cells is partitioned into daughter cells during mitosis by a process of disassembly and reassembly. This latter process occurs in a series of morphologically distinct steps at different stages of the mitotic process.