Microtubules mediate important cellular processes by forming highly ordered arrays. Organization of these networks is achieved by nucleating and anchoring microtubules at centrosomes and other structures collectively known as microtubule-organizing centers (MTOCs). However, the diverse microtubule configurations found in different cell types may not be generated and maintained by MTOCs alone. Work over the last few years has revealed a mechanism that has the capacity to generate cell-type-specific microtubule arrays independently of a specific organizer: nucleation of microtubules from the lateral surface of pre-existing microtubules. This type of nucleation requires cooperation between two different multi-subunit protein complexes, augmin and the γ-tubulin ring complex (γTuRC). Here we review recent molecular insight into microtubule-dependent nucleation and discuss the possibility that the augmin-γTuRC module, initially described in mitosis, may broadly contribute to microtubule organization also in non-mitotic cells.
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