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Curr Biol. 2012 Apr 10;22(7):583-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.01.064. Epub 2012 Mar 15.

Centrosomes can initiate a polarity axis from any position within one-cell C. elegans embryos.

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Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), Vienna, Austria.


The stereotyped asymmetry of one-cell C. elegans embryos has proven to be an important model for identifying molecular determinants of cell polarity. How polarity is initiated is less well understood. Polarity establishment depends on centrosomes, which use two molecularly distinct pathways to break symmetry. In both, the centrosome's position adjacent to the cell cortex is thought to determine where polarization starts. Defects in centrosome-cortex juxtaposition correlate with defects in polarity establishment in several mutants, suggesting that these processes may be linked, but there is no direct test of this. Here we assess how centrosome position relative to the cortex affects polarity establishment. We find that centrosomes can initiate polarity from any position within the embryo volume, but centrosome-cortex proximity decreases the time required to initiate polarity. Polarization itself brings about close centrosome-cortex proximity. Prior to polarization, cytoplasmic microtubules constrain centrosome movement near the cortex, expanding the controversial role of microtubules during polarity establishment. The ability of centrosomes to induce a single polarity axis from any position within the egg emphasizes the flexible, self-organizing properties of polarization in C. elegans embryos and contrasts the common view of C. elegans development as invariant.

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