Direct observation of branching MT nucleation in living animal cells

Centrosome-mediated microtubule (MT) nucleation has been well characterized; however, numerous noncentrosomal MT nucleation mechanisms exist. The branching MT nucleation pathway envisages that the -tubulin ring complex (-TuRC) is recruited to MTs by the augmin complex to initiate nucleation of new MTs. While the pathway is well conserved at a molecular and functional level, branching MT nucleation by core constituents has never been directly observed in animal cells. Here, multicolor TIRF microscopy was applied to visualize and quantitatively define the entire process of branching MT nucleation in dividing Drosophila cells during anaphase. The steps of a stereotypical branching nucleation event entailed augmin binding to a mother MT and recruitment of -TuRC after 15 s, followed by nucleation 16 s later of a daughter MT at a 36° branch angle. Daughters typically remained attached throughout their ~40-s lifetime unless the mother depolymerized past the branch point. Assembly of branched MT arrays, which did not require Drosophila TPX2, enhanced localized RhoA activation during cytokinesis.

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