Forces positioning the mitotic spindle: Theories, and now experiments

Hai Yin Wu, Ehssan Nazockdast, Michael J. Shelley, Daniel J. Needleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The position of the spindle determines the position of the cleavage plane, and is thus crucial for cell division. Although spindle positioning has been extensively studied, the underlying forces ultimately responsible for moving the spindle remain poorly understood. A recent pioneering study by Garzon-Coral et al. uses magnetic tweezers to perform the first direct measurements of the forces involved in positioning the mitotic spindle. Combining this with molecular perturbations and geometrical effects, they use their data to argue that the forces that keep the spindle in its proper position for cell division arise from astral microtubules growing and pushing against the cell's cortex. Here, we review these ground-breaking experiments, the various biomechanical models for spindle positioning that they seek to differentiate, and discuss new questions raised by these measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1600212
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • force measurement
  • magnetic tweezers
  • microtubule
  • pronuclear migration and rotation
  • spindle
  • spindle positioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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