In eukaryotic cells a specialized organelle called the microtubule organizing center (MTOC) is responsible for disposition of microtubules in a radial, polarized array in interphase cells and in the spindle in mitotic cells. Eukaryotic cells across different species, and different cell types within single species, have morphologically diverse MTOCs, but these share a common function of organizing microtubule arrays. MTOCs effect microtubule organization by initiating microtubule assembly and anchoring microtubules by their slowly growing minus ends, thus ensuring that the rapidly growing plus ends extend distally in each microtubule array. The goal is to define molecular components of the MTOC responsible for regulating microtubule assembly. One approach to defining the molecules responsible for MTOC function is to look for molecules common to all MTOCs. A newly discovered centrosomal protein, gamma-tubulin, is found in MTOCs in cells from many different organisms, and has several properties which make it a candidate for both initiation of microtubule assembly and anchorage. The hypothesis that gamma-tubulin plays a role in MTOCs in microtubule initiation and anchorage is currently being tested by a variety of experimental approaches.