Microtubules in the mitotic spindle are organised by microtubule-associated proteins. In the late stage of mitosis, spindle microtubules are robustly organised through bundling by the antiparallel microtubule bundler Ase1/PRC1. In early mitosis, however, it is not well characterised as to whether spindle microtubules are actively bundled, as Ase1 does not particularly localise to the spindle at that stage. Here we show that the conserved microtubule-associated protein CLASP (fission yeast Peg1/Cls1) facilitates bundling of spindle microtubules in early mitosis. The peg1 mutant displayed a fragile spindle with unbundled microtubules, which eventually resulted in collapse of the metaphase spindle and abnormal segregation of chromosomes. Peg1 is known to be recruited to the spindle by Ase1 to stabilise antiparallel microtubules in late mitosis. However, we demonstrate that the function of Peg1 in early mitosis does not rely on Ase1. The unbundled spindle phenotype of the peg1 mutant was not seen in the ase1 mutant, and Peg1 preferentially localised to the spindle even in early mitosis unlike Ase1. Moreover, artificial overexpression of Ase1 in the peg1 mutant partially suppressed unbundled microtubules. We thus conclude that Peg1 bundles microtubules in early mitosis, in a distinct manner from its conventional Ase1-dependent functions in other cell cycle stages.
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