Article abstract

Nature Methods 6, 167 - 172 (2009)
Published online: 18 January 2009 | doi:10.1038/nmeth.1297

Probing the mechanical architecture of the vertebrate meiotic spindle

Takeshi Itabashi1,2, Jun Takagi1, Yuta Shimamoto1,3, Hiroaki Onoe4, Kenta Kuwana4, Isao Shimoyama4, Jedidiah Gaetz3,5, Tarun M Kapoor3 & Shin'ichi Ishiwata1,2

Accurate chromosome segregation during meiosis depends on the assembly of a microtubule-based spindle of proper shape and size. Current models for spindle-size control focus on reaction diffusion–based chemical regulation and balance in activities of motor proteins. Although several molecular perturbations have been used to test these models, controlled mechanical perturbations have not been possible. Here we report a piezoresistive dual cantilever–based system to test models for spindle-size control and examine the mechanical features, such as deformability and stiffness, of the vertebrate meiotic spindle. We found that meiotic spindles prepared in Xenopus laevis egg extracts were viscoelastic and recovered their original shape in response to small compression. Larger compression resulted in plastic deformation, but the spindle adapted to this change, establishing a stable mechanical architecture at different sizes. The technique we describe here may also be useful for examining the micromechanics of other cellular organelles.

  1. Department of Physics, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Waseda University, 3-4-1 Okubo, Shinjuku, Tokyo 169-8555, Japan.
  2. Advanced Research Institute for Science and Engineering, Waseda University, 3-4-1 Okubo, Shinjuku, Tokyo 169-8555, Japan.
  3. Laboratory of Chemistry and Cell Biology, Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, Mail Box 202, New York, New York 10065, USA.
  4. Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo, Tokyo 113-8656, Japan.
  5. Present address: Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago, 929 East 57th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.

Correspondence to: Shin'ichi Ishiwata1,2 e-mail:

Correspondence to: Tarun M Kapoor3 e-mail:


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