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Curr Biol. 2013 Jul 22;23(14):1380-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.06.043.

Multiple mechanisms contribute to centriole separation in C. elegans.

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Max F. Perutz Laboratories, University of Vienna, Doktor-Bohr-Gasse 9, 1030 Vienna, Austria.


Centrosome function in cell division requires their duplication, once, and only once, per cell cycle. Underlying centrosome duplication are alternating cycles of centriole assembly and separation. Work in vertebrates has implicated the cysteine protease separase in anaphase-coupled centriole separation (or disengagement) and identified this as a key step in licensing another round of assembly. Current models have separase cleaving a physical link between centrioles, potentially cohesin, that prevents reinitiation of centriole assembly unless disengaged. Here, we examine separase function in the C. elegans early embryo. We find that depletion impairs separation and consequently duplication of sperm-derived centrioles at the meiosis-mitosis transition. However, subsequent cycles proceed normally. Whereas mitotic centrioles separate in the context of cortical forces acting on a disassembling pericentriolar material, sperm centrioles are not associated with significant pericentriolar material or subject to strong forces. Increasing centrosomal microtubule nucleation restores sperm centriole separation and duplication in separase-depleted embryos, while forced pericentriolar material disassembly drives premature separation in mitosis. These results emphasize the critical role of cytoskeletal forces and the pericentriolar material in centriole separation. Separase contributes to separation where forces are limited, offering a potential explanation for results obtained in different experimental models.

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