Elongation of the mitotic spindle during anaphase B contributes to chromosome segregation in many cells. Here, we quantitatively test the ability of two models for spindle length control to describe the dynamics of anaphase B spindle elongation using experimental data from Drosophila embryos. In the slide-and-flux-or-elongate (SAFE) model, kinesin-5 motors persistently slide apart antiparallel interpolar microtubules (ipMTs). During pre-anaphase B, this outward sliding of ipMTs is balanced by depolymerization of their minus ends at the poles, producing poleward flux, while the spindle maintains a constant length. Following cyclin B degradation, ipMT depolymerization ceases so the sliding ipMTs can push the poles apart. The competing slide-and-cluster (SAC) model proposes that MTs nucleated at the equator are slid outward by the cooperative actions of the bipolar kinesin-5 and a minus-end-directed motor, which then pulls the sliding MTs inward and clusters them at the poles. In assessing both models, we assume that kinesin-5 preferentially cross-links and slides apart antiparallel MTs while the MT plus ends exhibit dynamic instability. However, in the SAC model, minus-end-directed motors bind the minus ends of MTs as cargo and transport them poleward along adjacent, parallel MT tracks, whereas in the SAFE model, all MT minus ends that reach the pole are depolymerized by kinesin-13. Remarkably, the results show that within a narrow range of MT dynamic instability parameters, both models can reproduce the steady-state length and dynamics of pre-anaphase B spindles and the rate of anaphase B spindle elongation. However, only the SAFE model reproduces the change in MT dynamics observed experimentally at anaphase B onset. Thus, although both models explain many features of anaphase B in this system, our quantitative evaluation of experimental data regarding several different aspects of spindle dynamics suggests that the SAFE model provides a better fit.
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