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Curr Biol. 2001 May 15;11(10):735-46.

Completion of cytokinesis in C. elegans requires a brefeldin A-sensitive membrane accumulation at the cleavage furrow apex.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.



The terminal phase of cytokinesis in eukaryotic cells involves breakage of the intercellular canal containing the spindle midzone and resealing of the daughter cells. Recent observations suggest that the spindle midzone is required for this process. In this study, we investigated the possibility that targeted secretion in the vicinity of the spindle midzone is required for the execution of the terminal phase of cytokinesis.


We inhibited secretion in early C. elegans embryos by treatment with brefeldin A (BFA). Using 4D recordings of dividing cells, we showed that BFA induced stereotyped failures in the terminal phase of cytokinesis; although the furrow ingressed normally, after a few minutes the furrow completely regressed, even though spindle midzone and midbody microtubules appeared normal. In addition, using an FM1-43 membrane probe, we found that membrane accumulated locally at the apices of the late cleavage furrows that form the persisting intercellular canals between daughter cells. However, in BFA-treated embryos this membrane accumulation did not occur, which possibly accounts for the observed cleavage failures.


We have shown that BFA disrupts the terminal phase of cytokinesis in the embryonic blastomeres of C. elegans. We observed that membrane accumulates at the apices of the late cleavage furrow by means of a BFA-sensitive mechanism. We suggest that this local membrane accumulation is necessary for the completion of cytokinesis and speculate that the spindle midzone region of animal cells is functionally equivalent to the phragmoplast of plants and acts to target secretion to the equatorial plane of a cleaving cell.

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