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J Cell Biol. 1994 Feb;124(3):223-33.

Motile kinetochores and polar ejection forces dictate chromosome position on the vertebrate mitotic spindle.

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  • 1Wadsworth Center for Laboratories and Research, Albany, New York 12201-0509.


We argue that hypotheses for how chromosomes achieve a metaphase alignment, that are based solely on a tug-of-war between poleward pulling forces produced along the length of opposing kinetochore fibers, are no longer tenable for vertebrates. Instead, kinetochores move themselves and their attached chromosomes, poleward and away from the pole, on the ends of relatively stationary but shortening/elongating kinetochore fiber microtubules. Kinetochores are also "smart" in that they switch between persistent constant-velocity phases of poleward and away from the pole motion, both autonomously and in response to information within the spindle. Several molecular mechanisms may contribute to this directional instability including kinetochore-associated microtubule motors and kinetochore microtubule dynamic instability. The control of kinetochore directional instability, to allow for congression and anaphase, is likely mediated by a vectorial mechanism whose magnitude and orientation depend on the density and orientation or growth of polar microtubules. Polar microtubule arrays have been shown to resist chromosome poleward motion and to push chromosomes away from the pole. These "polar ejection forces" appear to play a key role in regulating kinetochore directional instability, and hence, positions achieved by chromosomes on the spindle.

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