Rat kangaroo kidney epithelium (PtK2) cells develop prominent asters and spindles during anaphase B of mitosis. It has been shown that severing the spindle at early anaphase B in living PtK1 cells results in a dramatic increase in the rate of pole-pole separation. This result suggested that the asters pull on the spindle poles, putting tension on the spindle, while the spindle acts as a governor, limiting the rate of pole separation. To further test these inferences, we used a UV-laser microbeam to damage one of the two asters in living PtK2 cells at early anaphase B and monitored the effects on individual spindle pole movements, pole-pole separation rates and astral microtubules (MTs). Irradiation at the estimated position of a centrosome greatly reduced its array of astral MTs and nearly stopped the movement of the irradiated pole, whereas the sister pole retained its normal array of astral MTs and actually accelerated. Control irradiations, either close to the estimated position of the centrosome or beside the spindle at the equator, had little or no effect on either spindle pole movements or astral MTs. These results support the inferences that during anaphase B in living PtK cells, the central spindle is under tension generated by pulling forces in the asters (presumably MT-mediated) and that the spindle generates counterforces that limit the rate of pole separation. The results also suggest that the central spindle in living PtK cells may be able to generate a pushing force.