Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Molecular and Cellular Biology

First Advisor

Patricia Wadsworth

Second Advisor

Magdalena Bezanilla

Third Advisor

David J. Gross

Subject Categories



The development and maintenance of multicellular organisms depends fundamentally on cell division, a series of events largely mediated by the mitotic spindle. Errors in spindle formation and/or function are often associated with severe consequences, most notably cancer. In order to elucidate the cause of such errors and the potential for therapeutic intervention, it is imperative to attain a clear understanding of how cell division normally operates. In this regard, this dissertation focuses on the activity of two microtubule-based motor proteins, Eg5 and dynein, prior to and immediately following nuclear envelope breakdown during mitosis. I show that prophase microtubules are remarkably more dynamic than their metaphase counterparts, moving both toward and away from centrosomes across a wide distribution of rates. Inhibition of Eg5, dynein and Kif2a revealed that a subset of this motion is consistent with microtubule flux, a well-established phenomenon temporally limited to metaphase and anaphase spindles by the preceding literature. My data indicates that flux is operational throughout all of mitosis, possibly functioning at early stages to collect centrosomal components. Immediately following prophase, cells begin assembling bipolar spindles. While the establishment of spindle bipolarity fails in the physical or functional absence of Eg5, I show that co-inhibition of dynein restores a cell’s ability to organize microtubules into a bipolar structure. Despite inhibition of both Eg5 and dynein, these spindles are morphologically and functionally equivalent to controls. Together, these data suggest that Eg5 and dynein share an antagonistic relationship and that a balance of forces, rather than a definitive set of players, is important for spindle assembly and function. To determine how Eg5- and dynein-mediated forces functionally coordinate to bring about antagonism during spindle assembly, I utilize a nocodazole washout assay. I show, via in vivo imaging and in silico modeling, that spindle collapse in the absence of functional Eg5 requires dynein activity and an initial intercentrosomal distance of less than 5.5μm. These data are consistent with a model in which dynein antagonizes Eg5 by crosslinking and sliding antiparallel microtubules, a novel role for dynein within the framework of spindle assembly.

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Biology Commons