• cytoskeleton;
  • mitosis;
  • centrosomes;
  • microtubules;
  • chromosomes;
  • cell division;
  • drugs

The formation of the bipolar mitotic apparatus depends on accurate centrosome organization which is crucial for the separation of the genome during cell division. While it has been shown that mutations and overexpression of centrosome proteins (Brinkley and Goepfert, 1998; Pihan et al., 1998) can cause abnormal spindle pole formation, here we report that damages to centrosome structure caused by the chaotropic agent formamide will cause multipolar mitoses upon recovery from the effect when applied at first cell division in sea urchin eggs. Formamide was used as a chemical tool to manipulate centrosome structure and to investigate the effects on microtubule organization. When 1–1.5m formamide was administered for 30min at prometaphase of first cell division, microtubules were disassembled and centrosomes compacted into dense spheres around highly condensed chromatin. Upon recovery from formamide, centrosomes decompacted and attempted to form various mitotic organizations. Normal recovery (and attempts of recovery) to bipolarity was possible in five percent of cells treated with 1–1.5m formamide for 30min, but abnormal patterns of spindle formation were observed in all other cells, which included mono- (20%), tri (45%), and multipolar (30%) formations organized by mono-, tri-, and multipolar centrosome clusters. When cells were treated with 1.5m formamide for 90min, centrosomes became pulverized and fragmented and only monopolar mitotic formations were observed upon recovery. These results are highly reproducible and reveal that abnormalities in centrosome structure can lead to abnormal mitosis which is not caused by mutation or overexpression of centrosome proteins.