Mechanical Torque Promotes Bipolarity of the Mitotic Spindle Through Multi-centrosomal Clustering

Christopher E. Miles, Jie Zhu, Alex Mogilner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intracellular forces shape cellular organization and function. One example is the mitotic spindle, a cellular machine consisting of multiple chromosomes and centrosomes which interact via dynamic microtubule filaments and motor proteins, resulting in complicated spatially dependent forces. For a cell to divide properly, it is important for the spindle to be bipolar, with chromosomes at the center and multiple centrosomes clustered into two ‘poles’ at opposite sides of the chromosomes. Experimental observations show that in unhealthy cells, the spindle can take on a variety of patterns. What forces drive each of these patterns? It is known that attraction between centrosomes is key to bipolarity, but what prevents the centrosomes from collapsing into a monopolar configuration? Here, we explore the hypothesis that torque rotating chromosome arms into orientations perpendicular to the centrosome-centromere vector promotes spindle bipolarity. To test this hypothesis, we construct a pairwise-interaction model of the spindle. On a continuum version of the model, an integro-PDE system, we perform linear stability analysis and construct numerical solutions which display a variety of spatial patterns. We also simulate a discrete particle model resulting in a phase diagram that confirms that the spindle bipolarity emerges most robustly with torque. Altogether, our results suggest that rotational forces may play an important role in dictating spindle patterning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number29
JournalBulletin of Mathematical Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Collective behavior
  • Intracellular mechanics
  • Mitotic spindle
  • Multi-centrosomal clustering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • General Mathematics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Environmental Science
  • Pharmacology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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