Spindle Fibers: Definition, Location & Purpose

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  • 0:01 What Are Spindle Fibers?
  • 0:27 Cell Division Overview
  • 1:43 Spindle Fiber Formation
  • 3:37 Lesson Sumary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jeremy Battista

Jeremy has a master of science degree in education.

During mitotic and meiotic cell division many structures form and disappear as part of the way to organize the cell. One such consideration is the spindle fiber. How do we end up with two unique cells? We find out here.

What Are Spindle Fibers?

Spindle fibers are the microtubules, centrosomes, and related structures that form during cell division, specifically in eukaryotic cells (those with a nucleus and membrane bound organelles). As we go into greater detail as to what these terms are and how spindle fibers are important, you'll notice that spindle fibers are used as a collective term and encompass some more specific terminology.

Cell Division Overview

In order for the body of any organism to grow, we have to replicate (copy) and grow new cells all the time. We start off as a simple bundle of cells but are able to grow into rather complex individuals. Even the more simplistic animals such as worms or bacteria take many cells working together for them to live. Our cells are created through two different processes: mitosis and meiosis.

Meiosis typically produces our sex cells - sperm for men, eggs for women. Mitosis produces most of the other cells in the human body. In both meiosis I (there are two parts) and mitosis, we start off with one cell, and it splits to form two separate yet identical cells. The DNA inside of the original cell must first duplicate itself (like a Xerox machine) before the cell splits.

Meiosis I and mitosis consist of the same six to seven stages, depending on how you look at it. For ease of explanation, I will refer to them as just 'cell division.' There is interphase, prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase, telophase, and finally cytokinesis. Spindle fibers essentially exist during most of cell division. They form and exist through nearly all of the different phases.

Spindle Fiber Formation

Spindle fibers can collectively be considered a number of different fibers and tubules inside of the cell. The spindle fibers are microtubules, long strands of protein that move to each side of the cell. They extend out microtubules that are used to pull the chromosomes (condensed DNA pairs) apart and to each side of the cell, allowing the two daughter cells to be completely identical.

The spindle fibers begin to form during prophase of cell division. The cell's centrosomes - small organelles that organize and arrange the microtubules - begin to form microtubules. They start to look something like a spider with lots of legs. As the cell begins the prometaphase stage, the centrosomes with microtubules move to opposite sides of the cell. It is here that they will stay and their microtubules will go to work.

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