Anti-tubulin antibodies and confocal immunofluorescence microscopy were used to examine the organization and regulation of cytoplasmic and cortical microtubules during the first cell cycle of fertilized Xenopus eggs. Appearance of microtubules in the egg cortex temporally coincided with the outgrowth of the sperm aster. Microtubules of the sperm aster first reached the animal cortex at 0.25, (times normalized to first cleavage), forming a radially organized array of cortical microtubules. A disordered network of microtubules was apparent in the vegetal cortex as early as 0.35. Cortical microtubule networks of both animal and vegetal hemispheres were reorganized at times corresponding to the cortical rotation responsible for specification of the dorsal-ventral (D-V) axis. Optical sections suggest that the cortical microtubules are continuous with the microtubules of the sperm aster in fertilized eggs, or an extensive activation aster in activated eggs. Neither assembly and organization, nor disassembly of the cortical microtubules coincided with MPF activation during mitosis. However, cycloheximide or 6-dimethylaminopurine, which arrest fertilized eggs at interphase, blocked cortical microtubule disassembly. Injection of p13, a protein that specifically inhibits MPF activation, delayed or inhibited cortical microtubule breakdown. In contrast, eggs injected with cyc delta 90, a truncated cyclin that arrest eggs in M-phase, showed normal microtubule disassembly. Finally, injection of partially purified MPF into cycloheximide-arrested eggs induced cortical microtubule breakdown. These results suggest that, despite a lack of temporal coincidence, breakdown of the cortical microtubules is dependent on the activation of MPF.

This content is only available via PDF.