The centriolar complex isolated from starfish spermatozoa

R. Kuriyama, H. Kanatani

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Centrioles from spermatozoa of the starfish, Asterina pectinifera, were isolated and partially purified by solubilization of chromatin followed by sucrose density-gradient centrifugation. The ultrastructure of the isolated centriolar complex was investigated in whole mount preparations by electron microscopy. The complex unit was composed of a pair of centrioles and a pericentriolar structure, which associated with the distal end of the distal centriole by 9 spokelike satellites extending radially to a marginal ring. Each satellite bifurcated at a dense node forming 2 fan-like shapes with a periodic striated pattern. The tubular structure of the centrioles easily disintegrated, leaving the pericentriolar structure or axonemal microtubules intact. The distal centriole in a spermatozoon served as an initiating site for flagellar microtubule assembly; that is, a number of '9+2' axonemal tubules were observed adhering just beneath the distal end of the basal body. In experiments in vitro, polymerization of microtubule proteins purified from porcine brain was initiated by the structure at the ends of both proximal and distal centrioles, but not from the satellites or the marginal ring. Also, few if any microtubules were formed from the sides of each centriole, even in the presence of a high concentration of exogenous tubulin. On the other hand, centrioles of spermatozoa, when they were in mature ooplasm, could initiate the formation of sperm asters by microtubules. Therefore, centrioles in spermatozoa seem to be able to initiate microtubules in 2 ways. A possible explanation of the difference between the 2 types of microtubule organization in vivo, i.e. in the sperm cell itself and in the ooplasm, is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-49
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of cell science
VolumeVol. 49
StatePublished - Jan 1 1981


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