In order to characterize the morphological steps defined by sporulation (spo) genes during the formation of ascospores in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, we performed an electron microscopic study of the ultrastructure of the spindle pole body (SPB) and of the development of the forespore membrane during the second meiotic division (meiosis II) in sporulation-deficient (spo) mutants (spo4, spo5, spo14 and spo18). No difference was found in terms of the function and the structure of the SPB during the first meiotic division (meiosis I) between the four mutants and wild-type cells. However, during meiosis II, the spo4 and spo18 mutants underwent nuclear division but in neither case were the SPBs modified nor were forespore membranes formed. The SPBs of the spo18 mutant diminished in size after meiosis II and eventually disappeared after 18 h in sporulation medium. By contrast, the SPBs of the spo4 mutant remained unchanged even after an 18-h incubation. The outer plaques of SPBs of spo5 and spo14 mutants were sufficiently modified to allow them to initiate development of the forespore membrane, but the membrane had an abnormally expanded lumen and did not enclose the nuclei during meiosis II. The spo5 mutant produced anucleate spore-like bodies while the spo14 mutant formed unorganized structures with irregular peripheries which, presumably, contained spore-wall precursors, instead of anucleate spore-like bodies. We conclude that the modification of the SPB is essential for the formation of ascospores and at least two genes (spo5 and spo14) participate in the development of the forespore membrane. The defective phenotypes define discrete steps in the development of ascospores, which proceeds via steps defined by the mutant spo4, spo18, spo14 and spo5 genes respectively. Our observations provide further substantial evidence that the SPB plays a pivotal role in the normal development of ascospores in yeasts.