Microtubule plus-end dynamics in Xenopus egg extract spindles. Academic Article uri icon


  • Microtubule dynamics underlie spindle assembly, yet we do not know how the spindle environment affects these dynamics. We developed methods for measuring two key parameters of microtubule plus-end dynamic instability in Xenopus egg extract spindles. To measure plus-end polymerization rates and localize growing plus ends, we used fluorescence confocal imaging of EB1. This revealed plus-end polymerization throughout the spindle at approximately 11 microm/min, similar to astral microtubules, suggesting polymerization velocity is not regionally regulated by the spindle. The ratio of EB1 to microtubule fluorescence revealed an enrichment of polymerizing ends near the spindle middle, indicating enhanced nucleation or rescue there. We measured depolymerization rates by creating a front of synchronized depolymerization in spindles severed with microneedles. This front could be tracked by polarization and fluorescence microscopy as it advanced from each cut edge toward the associated pole. Both imaging modalities revealed rapid depolymerization ( approximately 30 microm/min) superimposed on a subset of microtubules stable to depolymerization. Larger spindle fragments contained a higher percentage of stable microtubules, which we believe were oriented with their minus ends facing the cut. Depolymerization was blocked by the potent microtubule stabilizing agent hexylene glycol, but was unaffected by alpha-MCAK antibody and AMPPNP, which block catastrophe and kinesin motility, respectively. These measurements move us closer to understanding the complete life history of a spindle microtubule.

publication date

  • April 2004