Centrioles and basal bodies (CBBs) are microtubule-rich cylindrical structures that nucleate and organize centrosomes and cilia, respectively. Despite their apparent ninefold rotational symmetry, the nine sets of triplet microtubules in CBBs possess asymmetries in their morphology and in the structures that associate with them. These asymmetries define the position of nascent CBB assembly, the orientation of ciliary beating, the orientation of spindle poles and the maintenance of cellular geometry. For some of these functions, the orientation of CBBs is first established during new CBB biogenesis when the daughter structure is positioned adjacent to the mother. The mother CBB organizes the surrounding environment that nascent CBBs are born into, thereby providing a nest for the new CBB to develop. Protists, including ciliates and algae, highlight the importance of this environment with the formation of asymmetrically placed scaffolds onto which new basal bodies assemble and are positioned. Recent studies illuminate the positioning of nascent centrioles relative to a modular pericentriolar material (PCM) environment and suggest that, like ciliates, centrosomes organize an immediate environment surrounding centrioles for their biogenesis and positioning. In this Commentary, I will explore the positioning of nascent CBB assembly as the first event in building cellular asymmetries and describe how the environment surrounding both basal bodies and centrioles may define asymmetric assembly.
Keywords: Asymmetry; Basal body; Centriole; Pericentriolar material; Polarity.
© 2014. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.