Peripheral, non-centrosome-associated microtubules contribute to spindle formation in centrosome-containing cells

Curr Biol. 2003 Oct 28;13(21):1894-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2003.10.002.


In centrosome-containing cells, microtubules utilized in spindle formation are thought to be nucleated at the centrosome. However, spindle formation can proceed following experimental destruction of centrosomes or in cells lacking centrosomes, suggesting that non-centrosome-associated microtubules may contribute to spindle formation, at least when centrosomes are absent. Direct observation of prometaphase cells expressing GFP-alpha-tubulin shows that peripheral, non-centrosome-associated microtubules are utilized in spindle formation, even in the presence of centrosomes. Clusters of peripheral microtubules moved into the centrosomal region, demonstrating that a centrosomal microtubule array can be composed of both centrosomally nucleated and peripheral microtubules. Peripheral bundles also moved laterally into the forming spindle between the spindle poles; 3D reconstructions of fixed cells reveal interactions between peripheral and centrosome-associated microtubules. The spindle pole component NuMA and gamma-tubulin were present at the foci of peripheral microtubule clusters, indicating that microtubules moved into the spindle with minus ends leading. Photobleach- and photoactivation-marking experiments of cells expressing GFP-tubulin or a photoactivatable variant of GFP-tubulin, respectively, demonstrate that microtubule motion into the forming spindle results from transport and sliding interactions, not treadmilling. Our results directly demonstrate that non-centrosome-associated microtubules contribute to spindle formation in centrosome-containing cells.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Centrosome / physiology
  • LLC-PK1 Cells
  • Metaphase / physiology*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Microtubules / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Photobleaching
  • Spindle Apparatus / physiology*
  • Swine
  • Tubulin / metabolism*


  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Tubulin