Naegleria's mitotic spindles are built from unique tubulins and highlight core spindle features

Katrina B. Velle, Andrew S. Kennard, Monika Trupinić, Arian Ivec, Andrew J.M. Swafford, Emily Nolton, Luke M. Rice, Iva M. Tolić, Lillian K. Fritz-Laylin, Patricia Wadsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Naegleria gruberi is a unicellular eukaryote whose evolutionary distance from animals and fungi has made it useful for developing hypotheses about the last common eukaryotic ancestor. Naegleria amoebae lack a cytoplasmic microtubule cytoskeleton and assemble microtubules only during mitosis and thus represent a unique system for studying the evolution and functional specificity of mitotic tubulins and the spindles they assemble. Previous studies show that Naegleria amoebae express a divergent α-tubulin during mitosis, and we now show that Naegleria amoebae express a second mitotic α- and two mitotic β-tubulins. The mitotic tubulins are evolutionarily divergent relative to typical α- and β-tubulins and contain residues that suggest distinct microtubule properties. These distinct residues are conserved in mitotic tubulin homologs of the “brain-eating amoeba” Naegleria fowleri, making them potential drug targets. Using quantitative light microscopy, we find that Naegleria's mitotic spindle is a distinctive barrel-like structure built from a ring of microtubule bundles. Similar to those of other species, Naegleria's spindle is twisted, and its length increases during mitosis, suggesting that these aspects of mitosis are ancestral features. Because bundle numbers change during metaphase, we hypothesize that the initial bundles represent kinetochore fibers and secondary bundles function as bridging fibers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1247-1261.e6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 28 2022


  • Naegleria
  • cytoskeleton
  • evolutionary cell biology
  • microtubules
  • mitosis
  • protist
  • spindle
  • tubulin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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