The bipolar mitotic spindle drives accurate chromosome segregation by capturing the kinetochore and pulling each set of sister chromatids to the opposite poles. In this review, we describe recent findings on the multiple pathways leading to bipolar spindle formation in fission yeast and discuss these results from a broader perspective. The roles of three mitotic kinesins (Kinesin-5, Kinesin-6 and Kinesin-14) in spindle assembly are depicted, and how a group of microtubule-associated proteins, sister chromatid cohesion and the kinetochore collaborate with these motors is shown. We have paid special attention to the molecular pathways that render otherwise essential Kinesin-5 to become non-essential: how cells build bipolar mitotic spindles without the need for Kinesin-5 and where the alternate forces come from are considered. We highlight the force balance for bipolar spindle assembly and explain how outward and inward forces are generated by various ways, in which the proper fine-tuning of microtubule dynamics plays a crucial role. Overall, these new pathways have illuminated the remarkable plasticity and adaptability of spindle mechanics. Kinesin molecules are regarded as prospective targets for cancer chemotherapy and many specific inhibitors have been developed. However, several hurdles have arisen against their clinical implementation. This review provides insight into possible strategies to overcome these challenges.
Keywords: bipolar mitotic spindle; fission yeast; kinesin; kinetochore; microtubule dynamics; microtubule polymerase; microtubule–associated proteins (MAPs); sister chromatid cohesion; spindle pole body (SPB).