A metaphase spindle is a complex structure consisting of microtubules and a myriad of different proteins that modulate microtubule dynamics together with chromatin and kinetochores. A decade ago, a full description of spindle formation and function seemed a lofty goal. Here, we describe how work in the last 10 years combining cataloging of spindle components, the characterization of their biochemical activities using single-molecule techniques, and theory have advanced our knowledge. Taken together, these advances suggest that a full understanding of spindle assembly and function may soon be possible.
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