During late anaphase and telophase, animal cells develop a bundle of antiparallel, interdigitating microtubules between the two daughter nuclei. Recent data indicate that this structure, called the central spindle, plays an essential role during cytokinesis. Studies in Drosophila and on vertebrate cells strongly suggest that the molecular signals for cytokinesis specifically emanate from the central spindle midzone. Moreover, the analysis of Drosophila mutants defective in cytokinesis has revealed a cooperative interaction between the central spindle microtubules and the contractile ring: when either of these structures is perturbed, the proper assembly of the other is disrupted. Based on these results we propose a model for the role of the central spindle during cytokinesis. We suggest that the interaction between central spindle microtubules and cortical actin filaments leads to two early events crucial for cytokinesis: the positioning of the contractile ring, and the stabilization of the plus ends of the interdigitating microtubules that comprise the central spindle. The latter event would provide the cell with a specialized microtubule scaffold that could mediate the translocation of plus-end-directed molecular motors to the cell's equator. Among the cargoes transported by these motors could be proteins involved in the regulation and execution of cytokinesis.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.