Cytoplasmic volume modulates spindle size during embryogenesis

Science. 2013 Nov 15;342(6160):856-60. doi: 10.1126/science.1243147.


Rapid and reductive cell divisions during embryogenesis require that intracellular structures adapt to a wide range of cell sizes. The mitotic spindle presents a central example of this flexibility, scaling with the dimensions of the cell to mediate accurate chromosome segregation. To determine whether spindle size regulation is achieved through a developmental program or is intrinsically specified by cell size or shape, we developed a system to encapsulate cytoplasm from Xenopus eggs and embryos inside cell-like compartments of defined sizes. Spindle size was observed to shrink with decreasing compartment size, similar to what occurs during early embryogenesis, and this scaling trend depended on compartment volume rather than shape. Thus, the amount of cytoplasmic material provides a mechanism for regulating the size of intracellular structures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Size
  • Cytoplasm / chemistry
  • Cytoplasm / physiology*
  • Cytoplasm / ultrastructure
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Ovum
  • Spindle Apparatus / chemistry
  • Spindle Apparatus / physiology*
  • Spindle Apparatus / ultrastructure
  • Xenopus laevis