Spindle positioning in fibroblasts supports an astral microtubule length dependent force generation at the basal membrane

Cell Motil Cytoskeleton. 2001 Oct;50(2):69-88. doi: 10.1002/cm.1042.


V79 Chinese hamster fibroblasts that maintain an elongated shape in metaphase occur at a low frequency and often show the spindle asymmetrically positioned. We show here that this aberrant position is corrected in anaphase by an external force, pulling the spindle into place. The force was applied on astral microtubules because spindle motility was hampered when astral microtubules were poorly developed spontaneously, or destroyed by colcemid. Colcemid also abolished the observed downward positioning of centrosomes in anaphase. One pole of the spindle was usually dominant during correction, but occasionally both poles could become subject to pulling making the spindle move perpendicular to the long axis of the cell, which induced reshaping of the cell. The pulling force acted unevenly with short intervals of resting between the pulling. Spindle elongation also varied in rate but showed a different periodicity than translocation of the spindle, and therefore appeared independently regulated. The length of the spindle increased with the length of the cell, and the rate of spindle elongation and pole movement increased with distance moved, indicating that the forces mediated by astral microtubules increase with their length. Arp1/dynactin, not colocalising with tubulin, was more often continuous with microtubules in anaphase B than in metaphase, and was primarily located at the bottom of the cell. Further, shifts in the geometric gravity centre of the cell occurred in the same direction as migration of the spindle. To explain these results, we suggest that astral microtubles transiently anchored at the bottom of the cell are of particular importance for spindle translocation in fibroblasts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anaphase / drug effects
  • Anaphase / physiology
  • Animals
  • Basement Membrane / physiology*
  • Basement Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Cell Polarity / drug effects
  • Cell Polarity / physiology
  • Cell Size / drug effects
  • Cell Size / physiology
  • Centrosome / drug effects
  • Centrosome / physiology
  • Centrosome / ultrastructure
  • Chromosomes / physiology
  • Chromosomes / ultrastructure
  • Cricetinae
  • Demecolcine / pharmacology
  • Dynactin Complex
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / physiology*
  • Metaphase / drug effects
  • Metaphase / physiology
  • Microscopy, Video
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Microtubules / physiology*
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure
  • Mitosis / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Spindle Apparatus / physiology*
  • Spindle Apparatus / ultrastructure
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Dynactin Complex
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Demecolcine