High-voltage electron tomography of spindle pole bodies and early mitotic spindles in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Eileen T. O'Toole, Mark Winey, J. Richard McIntosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

239 Scopus citations


The spindle pole body (SPB) is the major microtubule-organizing center of budding yeast and is the functional equivalent of the centrosome in higher eukaryotic cells. We used fast-frozen, freeze-substituted cells in conjunction with high-voltage electron tomography to study the fine structure of the SPB and the events of early spindle formation. Individual structures were imaged at 5-10 nm resolution in three dimensions, significantly better than can be achieved by serial section electron microscopy. The SPB is organized in distinct but coupled layers, two of which show ordered two- dimensional packing. The SPB central plaque is anchored in the nuclear envelope with hook-like structures. The minus ends of nuclear microtubules (MTs) are capped and are tethered to the SPB inner plaque, whereas the majority of MT plus ends show a distinct flaring. Unbudded cells containing a single SPB retain 16 MTs, enough to attach to each of the expected 16 chromosomes. Their median length is ~150 nm. MTs growing from duplicated but not separated SPBs have a median length of ~130 nm and interdigitate over the bridge that connects the SPBs. As a bipolar spindle is formed, the median MT length increases to ~300 nm and then decreases to ~30 nm in late anaphase. Three-dimensional models confirm that there is no conventional metaphase and that anaphase A occurs. These studies complement and extend what is known about the three-dimensional structure of the yeast mitotic spindle and further our understanding of the organization of the SPB in intact cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2017-2031
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Biology of the Cell
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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