Incubation of early Drosophila embryos with low concentrations of taxol (2.3 microM) revealed a pattern of microtubule assembly that was cell-cycle dependent. Microtubule bundling was observed during the pronuclear stage after resumption of meiosis, whereas at the onset of the first mitosis the microtubules organized in astral arrays. Taxol treatment showed differential microtubule assembly properties of the egg cytoplasm. The preferential assembly site for taxol-induced asters was the ventral cortex; in the dorsal cortex only microtubule bundling occurred. This dorsal-ventral heterogeneity of the ege cortex persisted until the third or fourth nuclear cycle. Microtubules did not organize in astral arrays in the inner cytoplasm, but only in mitotic spindles. CP190 and gamma-tubulin, usually found in the centrosome of the early Drosophila embryo, were absent in taxol-induced asters. These observations suggest that the mechanism driving the assembly of taxol-induced asters is not centrosome dependent in the early Drosophila embryo.