The meiotic spindle is a bipolar molecular machine that is designed to segregate duplicated chromosomes toward the opposite poles of the cell. The size and shape of the spindle are considered to be maintained by a balance of forces produced by molecular motors and microtubule assembly dynamics. Several studies have probed how mechanical perturbations of the force balance affect the spindle structure. However, the spindle's response to a stretching force acting at the spindle pole and along its long axis, i.e., the direction in which chromosomes are segregated, has not been examined. Here, we describe a method to apply a stretching force to the metaphase spindle assembled in Xenopus egg extracts and measure the relationship between the force and the three-dimensional deformation of the spindle. We found that the spindle behaves as a Zener-type viscoelastic body when forces are applied at the spindle pole, generating a restoring force for several minutes. In addition, both the volume of the spindle and the tubulin density are conserved under the stretching force. These results provide insight into how the spindle size is maintained at metaphase.
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