Dividing cells reorganize their microtubule cytoskeleton into a bipolar spindle, which moves one set of sister chromatids to each nascent daughter cell. Early spindle assembly models postulated that spindle-pole-derived microtubules search the cytoplasmic space until they randomly encounter a kinetochore to form a stable attachment. More recent work uncovered several additional, centrosome-independent microtubule generation pathways, but the contributions of each pathway to spindle assembly have remained unclear. Here, we combined live microscopy and mathematical modeling to show that most microtubules nucleate at non-centrosomal regions in dividing human cells. Using a live-cell probe that selectively labels aged microtubule lattices, we demonstrate that the distribution of growing microtubule plus-ends can be almost entirely explained by Augmin-dependent amplification of long-lived microtubules. By ultra-fast 3D lattice light-sheet microscopy, we observed that this mechanism results in a strong directional bias of microtubule growth towards individual kinetochores. Our systematic quantification of spindle dynamics reveals highly coordinated microtubule growth during kinetochore-fiber assembly.
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