Background: After anaphase, the segregated chromosomes are sequestered by cytokinesis into two separate daughter cells by a cleavage furrow formed by the actomyosin-based contractile ring. The failure to properly position the contractile ring between the segregated chromosomes can result in aneuploidy. In both C. elegans embryos and human cells, the central spindle regulates division-plane positioning in parallel with a second pathway that involves astral microtubules.
Results: We combined genetic and pharmacological manipulations with live cell imaging to spatially separate the two division cues in a single cell. We demonstrate that the two pathways for furrow formation are mechanistically and genetically distinct. By following the distribution of green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged nonmuscle myosin, we have found that the astral pathway for furrow formation involves the negative regulation of cortical myosin recruitment. An asymmetrically positioned spindle induces the asymmetric cortical accumulation of myosin. This cortical myosin behaves as a coherent contractile network. If the cortical network is nonuniform over the cell, the cortical contractile elements coalesce into a single furrow. This coalescence requires interconnections among contractile elements.
Conclusions: We conclude that the two pathways of cleavage-furrow formation are mechanistically distinct. In particular, we conclude that the astral pathway for cleavage-furrow formation involves the negative regulation of myosin distribution by astral cues.