We describe a cell-free system in which a postribosomal supernatant (s140) from metaphase Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells induces prophase-like changes in isolated CHO cell nuclei, including chromatin condensation, and nuclear envelope and lamina disassembly. These events are strongly promoted by gamma-S-ATP and an ATP-regenerating system, and do not take place with an s140 derived from G2-phase cells. The metaphase cell s140 also induces disassembly of an isolated nuclear lamina fraction that is depleted of membranes, chromatin, and nuclear pore complexes. Disassembly of the isolated lamina is accompanied by phosphorylation of the major lamina proteins (lamins A, B, and C) to levels characteristic of metaphase cells. Kinetic analysis of lamina depolymerization indicates that cooperativity may be involved in this process. The biochemical properties of in vitro lamina disassembly suggest that the activity that depolymerizes the lamina during mitosis is soluble in metaphase cells, and support the notion that this activity is a lamin protein kinase.