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Journal Article



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Journal of Cell Biology





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During the transition from prometaphase to metaphase, the cross-sectional area of the central spindle of Diatoma decreases by a factor of nearly two, both at the poles and at the region of overlapping microtubules (MTs) near the spindle equator. The density of spindle MT packing stays approximately constant throughout mitosis. Optical diffraction analysis of electron micrographs shows that the packing of the MTs at the poles at all stages of mitosis is similar to that expected for a two-dimensional liquid. Analysis of the region of overlap reveals more packing regularity: during prometaphase, a square packing emerges that displays sufficient organization by late metaphase to generate five orders of diffraction; during anaphase the packing in the overlap region shifts to hexagonal; at telophase, it returns to square. From the data provided by serial section reconstructions of the central spindle, it is possible to identify the polarity of almost every spindle MT, that is, to identify one pole with which the MT is associated. Near neighbor analyses of MTs in cross sections of the overlap region show that MTs prefer antiparallel near neighbors. These near neighbors are most often found at a spacing of approximately 40 nm center-to-center, while parallel near neighbors in the zone of overlap are spaced essentially at random. These results are evidence for a specific interaction between antiparallel MTs. In some sections definite bridges between MTs can be seen. Our findings show that certain necessary conditions for a sliding filament model of anaphase spindle elongation are met.