The spindle checkpoint blocks the initiation of anaphase in mitosis and meiosis if chromosomes are not aligned at the metaphase plate. The checkpoint functions by preventing a ubiquitin ligase called the anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) from ubiquitinylating proteins whose destruction is required for anaphase onset. The spindle checkpoint signal originates at the kinetochores of unaligned chromosomes and is broadcast to the rest of the cell. Although the spindle checkpoint is not understood in detail, several components of the checkpoint-signaling pathway have been identified. Many of these components associate transiently with the kinetochores of unaligned chromosomes. We propose a model in which kinetochores that lack stable attachments to the spindle microtubules serve as catalytic staging areas for the assembly of inhibitor complexes. These inhibitor complexes then leave the kinetochores and block activity of the APC/C throughout the cell. We suggest that microtubule occupancy at kinetochores or physical tension induced by microtubule capture turns off the capability of the kinetochore to produce the APC/C inhibitor. Subsequently, the inhibitor concentration in the cell wanes and anaphase initiates.