To understand how the meiotic spindle is formed and maintained in higher plants, we studied the organization of microtubule arrays in wild-type maize meiocytes and three maize meiotic mutants, desynaptic1 (dsy1), desynaptic2 (dsy2), and absence of first division (afd). All three meiotic mutations have abnormal chromosome pairing and produce univalents by diakinesis. Using these three mutants, we investigated how the absence of paired homologous chromosomes affects the assembly and maintenance of the meiotic spindle. Before nuclear envelope breakdown, in wild-type meiocytes, there were no bipolar microtubule arrays. Instead, these structures formed after nuclear envelope breakdown and were associated with the chromosomes. The presence of univalent chromosomes in dsy1, dsy2, and afd meiocytes and of unpaired sister chromatids in the afd meiocytes did not affect the formation of bipolar spindles. However, alignment of chromosomes on the metaphase plate and subsequent anaphase chromosome segregation were perturbed. We propose a model for spindle formation in maize meiocytes in which microtubules initially appear around the chromosomes during prometaphase and then the microtubules self-organize. However, this process does not require paired kinetochores to establish spindle bipolarity.

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