The early embryonic divisions of Drosophila melanogaster are characterized by rapid, synchronized changes of the nuclei and surrounding cytoskeleton. We report evidence that these changes are carried out by two separately organized systems. DNA was sufficient to cause assembly of nuclear lamina and the formation of nuclear membrane with pore structures. Free centrosomes were correlated with the formation of microtubule, microfilament and spectrin networks in the absence of nuclei. In addition, we found that the morphology of the cytoskeleton associated with the free centrosomes cycled in response to the embryonic cell cycle cues. These observations suggest that the centrosomes may be responsible for the organization of this extensive cytoskeleton. The early divisions may therefore result from the independent cycling of two systems, the nucleus and the surrounding cytoskeleton, that respond separately to the mitotic cues in the embryo and function together to give the synchronized early divisions. The Drosophila embryo has an “intermediate” mitotic system in which the nuclear membrane does not break down completely during mitosis. We speculate that the principles of cytoskeleton organization in this system may be different from those of the Xenopus “open” mitotic system.

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