In previous work we injected mitotic cells with fluorescent tubulin and photobleached them to mark domains on the spindle microtubules. We concluded that chromosomes move poleward along kinetochore fiber microtubules that remain stationary with respect to the pole while depolymerizing at the kinetochore. In those experiments, bleached zones in anaphase spindles showed some recovery of fluorescence with time. We wished to determine the nature of this recovery. Was it due to turnover of kinetochore fiber microtubules or of nonkinetochore microtubules or both? We also wished to investigate the question of turnover of kinetochore microtubules in metaphase. We microinjected cells with x-rhodamine tubulin (x-rh tubulin) and photobleached spindles in anaphase and metaphase. At various times after photobleaching, cells were detergent lysed in a cold buffer containing 80 microM calcium, conditions that led to the disassembly of almost all nonkinetochore microtubules. Quantitative analysis with a charge coupled device image sensor revealed that the bleached zones in anaphase cells showed no fluorescence recovery, suggesting that these kinetochore fiber microtubules do not turn over. Thus, the partial fluorescence recovery seen in our earlier anaphase experiments was likely due to turnover of nonkinetochore microtubules. In contrast fluorescence in metaphase cells recovered to approximately 70% the control level within 7 min suggesting that many, but perhaps not all, kinetochore fiber microtubules of metaphase cells do turn over. Analysis of the movements of metaphase bleached zones suggested that a slow poleward translocation of kinetochore microtubules occurred. However, within the variation of the data (0.12 +/- 0.24 micron/min), it could not be determined whether the apparent movement was real or artifactual.