The three-dimensional architecture of the mitotic spindle, analyzed by confocal fluorescence and electron microscopy

J Electron Microsc Tech. 1991 May;18(1):61-73. doi: 10.1002/jemt.1060180110.


Fluorescence microscopy techniques have become important tools in mitosis research. The well-known disadvantages of fluorescence microscopy, rapid bleaching, phototoxicity and out-of-focus contributions blurring the in-focus image are obstacles which still need to be overcome. Confocal fluorescence microscopy has the potential to improve our capabilities of analyzing cells, because of its excellent depth-discrimination and image processing power. We have been using a confocal fluorescence microscope for the study of the mechanism of poleward chromosome movement, and report here 1) a cell preparation technique, which allows labeling of fixation sensitive spindle antigens with acceptable microtubule preservation; 2) the use of image processing methods to represent the spatial distribution of various labeled elements in pseudocolour; 3) a novel immunoelectron microscopic labeling method for microtubules, which allows the visualization of their distribution in semithin sections at low magnification; and 4) a first attempt to study microtubule dynamics with a confocal fluorescence microscope in living cells, microinjected with rhodamine labeled tubulin. Our experience indicates that confocal fluorescence microscopy provides real advantages for the study of spatial colocalization of antigens in the mitotic spindle. It does not, however, overcome the basic limits of resolution of the light microscope. Therefore, it has been necessary to use an electron microscopic method. Our preliminary results with living cells show that it is possible to visualize the entire microtubule network in stereo, but that the sensitivity of the instrument is still too low to perform dynamic time studies. It will be worthwhile to further develop this new type of optical instrumentation and explore its usefulness on both fixed and living cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division
  • Chromosomes / ultrastructure
  • Dipodomys
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence* / methods
  • Microtubules / ultrastructure
  • Spindle Apparatus / ultrastructure*