The process of cytokinesis in animal cells is usually presented as a relatively simple picture: A cleavage plane is first positioned in the equatorial region by the astral microtubules of the anaphase mitotic apparatus, and a contractile ring made up of parallel filaments of actin and myosin II is formed and encircles the cortex at the division site. Active sliding between the two filament systems constricts the perimeter of the cortex, leading to separation of two daughter cells. However, recent studies in both animal cells and lower eukaryotic model organisms have demonstrated that cytokinesis is actually far more complex. It is now obvious that the three key processes of cytokinesis, cleavage plane determination, equatorial furrowing, and scission, are driven by different mechanisms in different types of cells. In some cases, moreover, multiple pathways appear to have redundant functions in a single cell type. In this review, we present a novel hypothesis that incorporates recent observations on the activities of mitotic microtubules and the biochemistry of Rho-type GTPase proteins and postulates that two different sets of microtubules are responsible for the two known mechanisms of cleavage plane determination and also for two distinct mechanisms of equatorial furrowing.
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