Cleavage furrow formation in animal cells results from a local increase in cortical contractility. During anaphase, the spindle contains, in addition to astral arrays of microtubules, a set of bundled microtubules known as the central spindle. Each of these populations of microtubules, the astral arrays and the central spindle bundles, is sufficient to direct cleavage furrow formation, yet in wild-type situations these sets of microtubules co-operate to induce furrow formation at the same site, between the segregating chromosomes. These pathways have distinct genetic requirements that reflect their differential control of cortical actomyosin. We review our current understanding of the molecular mechanisms of furrow formation, with particular emphasis on the central spindle-independent pathway.

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