The centrosome is the major microtubule organizing center in most animal cells. This cytoplasmic organelle consists of two components : a mature centriole (or a pair of centrioles) and a mass of pericentriolar material (PCM). The PCM has been described as either a cloud of material that encases the entire centriole or as a cluster of proteins divided into two subsets, one that adheres to the lateral surface of the centriole and another that extends outward from this region as a cloud of material. In contrast to these protein distribution patterns, we demonstrated in a previous study that a subset of proteins present within the PCM is integrated together to form a tube (PCM tube) with an open and closed end that is duplicated in concert with centrosome duplication. The present study was undertaken to determine if this tubular conformation represents proteins that are confined to the surface of the centriole or if it represents a subset of proteins within the cloud of material that extends outward from the centriole. We document that : (1) the PCM tube represents a portion of the PCM directly associated with the centriole; (2) the PCM tube has a specific and reproducible relationship to the polar structure of the centriole; (3) the tube is a site of cytoplasmic microtubule organization, and has a structure that influences the initial pattern of microtubule assembly within the juxta-centriolar region; and (4) the PCM tube has a structural relationship with respect to the centriole, which allows the simultaneous expression of centriole- and PCM-based functions (e.g., ciliogenesis and cytoplasmic microtubule organization). Based on these findings, we propose a new model of the PCM at the centriole. This model highlights the role played by the proximal end of the centriole in the nucleation and organization of centriole-associated PCM, and indicates that the centrosome has an overall polarity in the region of the centriole.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.