|| Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid
Chromosomes attach to the mitotic spindle via their kinetochores. The average number of spindle microtubules binding to each kinetochore varies with species, the stage of mitosis, and the length of time that the kinetochore has been attached to the spindle. In this report, we investigate how kinetochore microtubule number varies with kinetochore size and chromosome size in PtK1 cells. From an analysis of serial-section electron micrographs, we determined that the average surface area of metaphase, taxol-treated metaphase, and anaphase kinetochores is 0.16 ± 0.05 μm2 (N = 181). Surprisingly, kinetochore microtubules are packed more densely on the smaller kinetochores, as seen by a reduction in the average spacing between kinetochore microtubules from 89 nm to 59 nm. Our interpretation of this result is that PtK1 cells require a minimum kinetochore microtubule-binding capacity for survival during repeated rounds of mitotic division. We estimate the lower limit to be 23 kinetochore microtubules and suggest that this capacity is required to ensure stable attachment during the dynamic and highly stochastic process of kinetochore fiber formation. There is a modest but statistically significant increase in kinetochore microtubule number with chromosome size, indicating that chromosome size is a minor determinant of kinetochore microtubule number.