The sperm centrioles

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2020 Dec 1;518:110987. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2020.110987. Epub 2020 Aug 15.


Centrioles are eukaryotic subcellular structures that produce and regulate massive cytoskeleton superstructures. They form centrosomes and cilia, regulate new centriole formation, anchor cilia to the cell, and regulate cilia function. These basic centriolar functions are executed in sperm cells during their amplification from spermatogonial stem cells during their differentiation to spermatozoa, and finally, after fertilization, when the sperm fuses with the egg. However, sperm centrioles exhibit many unique characteristics not commonly observed in other cell types, including structural remodeling, centriole-flagellum transition zone migration, and cell membrane association during meiosis. Here, we discuss five roles of sperm centrioles: orchestrating early spermatogenic cell divisions, forming the spermatozoon flagella, linking the spermatozoon head and tail, controlling sperm tail beating, and organizing the cytoskeleton of the zygote post-fertilization. We present the historic discovery of the centriole as a sperm factor that initiates embryogenesis, and recent genetic studies in humans and other mammals evaluating the current evidence for the five functions of sperm centrioles. We also examine information connecting the various sperm centriole functions to distinct clinical phenotypes. The emerging picture is that centrioles are essential sperm components with remarkable functional diversity and specialization that will require extensive and in-depth future studies.

Keywords: Andrology; Centriole; Male infertility; Semen; Sperm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Centrioles / genetics
  • Centrioles / physiology*
  • Embryonic Development
  • Fertilization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meiosis
  • Spermatozoa / cytology
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*