1. Cell Biology
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Super-resolution kinetochore tracking reveals the mechanisms of human sister kinetochore directional switching

  1. Nigel J Burroughs
  2. Edward F Harry
  3. Andrew D McAinsh  Is a corresponding author
  1. University of Warwick, United Kingdom
Research Article
  • Cited 9
  • Views 1,752
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Cite this article as: eLife 2015;4:e09500 doi: 10.7554/eLife.09500


The congression of chromosomes to the spindle equator involves the directed motility of bi-orientated sister kinetochores. Sister kinetochores bind bundles of dynamic microtubules and are physically connected through centromeric chromatin. A crucial question is to understand how sister kinetochores are coordinated to generate motility and directional switches. Here we combine super-resolution tracking of kinetochores with automated switching point detection to analyse sister switching dynamics over thousands of events. We discover that switching is initiated by both the leading (microtubules depolymerising) or trailing (microtubules polymerising) kinetochore. Surprisingly, trail-driven switching generates an overstretch of the chromatin that relaxes over the following half-period. This rules out the involvement of a tension sensor, the central premise of the long-standing tension-model. Instead, our data support a model in which clocks set the intrinsic-switching time of the two kinetochore-attached microtubule fibres, with the centromeric spring tension operating as a feedback to slow or accelerate the clocks.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Nigel J Burroughs

    Warwick Systems Biology Centre, Warwick Mathematics Institute, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Edward F Harry

    Warwick Molecular Organisation and Assembly in Cells, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Andrew D McAinsh

    Mechanochemical Cell Biology Building, Division of Biomedical Cell Biology, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Anthony A Hyman, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Germany

Publication history

  1. Received: June 18, 2015
  2. Accepted: October 13, 2015
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: October 13, 2015 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: February 12, 2016 (version 2)


© 2015, Burroughs et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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