The functional significance of centrosomes in mammalian meiosis, fertilization, development, nuclear transfer, and stem cell differentiation

Environ Mol Mutagen. 2009 Oct;50(8):620-36. doi: 10.1002/em.20493.


Centrosomes had been discovered in germ cells and germ cells continue to provide excellent but also challenging material in which to study complex centrosomal dynamics. The present review highlights the importance of centrosomes for meiotic spindle integrity and the susceptibility of meiotic spindle centrosomes to aging and drugs or toxic agents which may be associated with female infertility, aneuploidy, and developmental abnormalities. We discuss cell and molecular aspects of centrosomes during fertilization, a critical stage in which centrosomes play crucial roles in precisely organizing the sperm aster that allows apposition of male and female genomes followed by formation of the zygote aster that is important for the formation of the bipolar spindle apparatus during cell division. Development of an embryo involves sequential cell divisions in which centrosomes play a critical role in establishing asymmetry that allows differentiation of cells and targeted signal transductions for the developing embryo. Asymmetric centrosome dynamics are also critical for stem cell division to maintain one daughter cell as a stem cell while the other daughter cell undergoes centrosome growth in preparation for differentiation. This review also discusses the complex interactions of somatic cell centrosomes with the recipient oocyte in reconstructed (cloned) embryos in which centrosome remodeling is crucial to fulfill functions that are carried out by the zygote centrosome in fertilized eggs. We close our discussion with a look at centrosome dysfunctions and implications for male fertility and assisted reproduction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Nucleus
  • Centrosome*
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Female
  • Fertilization*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meiosis*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*