Mechanics of Multicentrosomal Clustering in Bipolar Mitotic Spindles

Saptarshi Chatterjee, Apurba Sarkar, Jie Zhu, Alexei Khodjakov, Alex Mogilner, Raja Paul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To segregate chromosomes in mitosis, cells assemble a mitotic spindle, a molecular machine with centrosomes at two opposing cell poles and chromosomes at the equator. Microtubules and molecular motors connect the poles to kinetochores, specialized protein assemblies on the centromere regions of the chromosomes. Bipolarity of the spindle is crucial for the proper cell division, and two centrosomes in animal cells naturally become two spindle poles. Cancer cells are often multicentrosomal, yet they are able to assemble bipolar spindles by clustering centrosomes into two spindle poles. Mechanisms of this clustering are debated. In this study, we computationally screen effective forces between 1) centrosomes, 2) centrosomes and kinetochores, 3) centrosomes and chromosome arms, and 4) centrosomes and cell cortex to understand mechanics that determines three-dimensional spindle architecture. To do this, we use the stochastic Monte Carlo search for stable mechanical equilibria in the effective energy landscape of the spindle. We find that the following conditions have to be met to robustly assemble the bipolar spindle in a multicentrosomal cell: 1) the strengths of centrosomes’ attraction to each other and to the cell cortex have to be proportional to each other and 2) the strengths of centrosomes’ attraction to kinetochores and repulsion from the chromosome arms have to be proportional to each other. We also find that three other spindle configurations emerge if these conditions are not met: 1) collapsed, 2) monopolar, and 3) multipolar spindles, and the computational screen reveals mechanical conditions for these abnormal spindles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-447
Number of pages14
JournalBiophysical journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 21 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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