The mitotic spindle has long been recognized to play an essential role in determining the position of the cleavage furrow during cell division, however little is known about the mechanisms involved in this process. One attractive hypothesis is that signals from the spindle may function to induce reorganization of cortical structures and transport of actin filaments to the equator during cytokinesis. While an important idea, few experiments have directly tested this model. In the present study, we have used a variety of experimental approaches to identify microtubule-dependent effects on key cortical events during normal cell cleavage, including cortical flow, reorientation of actin filaments, and formation of the contractile apparatus. Single-particle tracking experiments showed that the microtubule disrupting drug nocodazole induces an inhibition of the movements of cell surface receptors following anaphase onset, while the microtubule stabilizing drug taxol causes profound changes in the overall pattern of receptor movements. These effects were accompanied by a related set of changes in the organization of the actin cytoskeleton. In nocodazole-treated cells, the three-dimensional organization of cortical actin filaments appeared less ordered than in controls. Measurements with fluorescence-detected linear dichroism indicated a decrease in the alignment of filaments along the spindle axis. In contrast, actin filaments in taxol-treated cells showed an increased alignment along the equator on both the ventral and dorsal cortical surfaces, mirroring the redistribution pattern of surface receptors. Together, these experiments show that spindle microtubules are involved in directing bipolar flow of surface receptors and reorganization of actin filaments during cell division, thus acting as a stimulus for positioning cortical cytoskeletal components and organizing the contractile apparatus of dividing tissue culture cells.

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