Centrosome-independent microtubule polymerization around chromosomes has been shown to require a local gradient of RanGTP, which discharges mitotic cargoes from the nuclear import receptor importin beta. Here, we have used an activity-based assay in Xenopus egg extracts to purify the mRNA export protein Rae1 as a spindle assembly factor regulated by this pathway. Rae1 is a microtubule-associated protein that binds directly to importin beta. Depletion of Rae1 from extracts or cells severely inhibits mitotic spindle assembly. A purified Rae1 complex stabilizes microtubules in egg extracts in a RanGTP/importin beta-regulated manner. Interestingly, Rae1 exists in a large ribonucleoprotein complex, which requires RNA for its activity to control microtubule dynamics in vitro. Furthermore, we provide evidence that RNA associates with the mitotic spindle and that it plays a direct, translation-independent role in spindle assembly. Our studies reveal an unexpected function for RNA in spindle morphogenesis.