If mitotic-arrested, cold-stored HeLa cells are incubated at 37 degrees C a proportion of the population divides by an aberrant process which we have called subdivision by extrusion. This process has been studied by time-lapse photography and shown to differ from normal cleavage in several respects. The cell surface becomes more generally mobile and, instead of producing the precisely localized furrowing activity of cytokinesis, gives rise to multiple surface protrusions. These protrusions enlarge at the expense of the parent cell and develop into a cluster of small daughter cells (mini segregants). The surface structure of the cell, as seen by scanning electron microscopy, also changes; the microvilli characteristic of interphase, metaphase and cleaving HeLa cells are lost during extrusion and the cell surface becomes smooth. Extrusion activity is much more variable than division by cleavage in terms of both topography and kinetics, and in general takes longer to complete. Some cells in the cold-treated populations divide by mixtures of cleavage and extrusion or by cleavage alone. The relative numbers of cells dividing in different ways vary with the conditions of pretreatment and incubation of the mitotic cells. The greater the perturbation (e.g. longer cold storage), the greater the proportion of extruding rather than cleaving cells. Human diploid cells can also be induced to subdivide by extrusion. Possible mechanisms underlying the different types of division activity are discussed.

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