Molecular requirements for kinetochore-associated microtubule formation in mammalian cells

Curr Biol. 2006 Mar 7;16(5):536-41. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2006.01.060.


In centrosome-containing cells, microtubules nucleated at centrosomes are thought to play a major role in spindle assembly. In addition, microtubule formation at kinetochores has also been observed, most recently under physiological conditions in live cells. The relative contributions of microtubule formation at kinetochores and centrosomes to spindle assembly, and their molecular requirements, remain incompletely understood. Using mammalian cells released from nocodazole-induced disassembly, we observed microtubule formation at centrosomes and at Bub1-positive sites on chromosomes. Kinetochore-associated microtubules rapidly coalesced into pole-like structures in a dynein-dependent manner. Microinjection of excess importin-beta or depletion of the Ran-dependent spindle assembly factor, TPX2, blocked kinetochore-associated microtubule formation, enhanced centrosome-associated microtubule formation, but did not prevent chromosome capture by centrosomal microtubules. Depletion of the chromosome passenger protein, survivin, reduced microtubule formation at kinetochores in an MCAK-dependent manner. Microtubule formation in cells depleted of Bub1 or Nuf2 was indistinguishable from that in controls. Our data demonstrate that microtubule assembly at centrosomes and kinetochores is kinetically distinct and differentially regulated. The presence of microtubules at kinetochores provides a mechanism to reconcile the time required for spindle assembly in vivo with that observed in computer simulations of search and capture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dyneins / physiology
  • Kinetochores / metabolism*
  • Kinetochores / ultrastructure
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / physiology
  • Microtubules / metabolism*
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure
  • Models, Biological
  • Nuclear Proteins / physiology
  • Spindle Apparatus / metabolism
  • Spindle Apparatus / ultrastructure
  • Tubulin / metabolism
  • ran GTP-Binding Protein / physiology


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Tubulin
  • Dyneins
  • ran GTP-Binding Protein