• centriole structure;
  • insect spermatozoa;
  • electron microscopy


In addition to their role in centrosome organization, the centrioles have another distinct function as basal bodies for the formation of cilia and flagella. Centriole duplication has been reported to require two alternate assembly pathways: template or de novo. Since spermiogenesis in the termite Mastotermes darwiniensis lead to the formation of multiflagellate sperm, this process represents a useful model system in which to follow basal body formation and flagella assembly. We present evidence of a possible de novo pathway for basal body formation in the differentiating germ cell. This cell also contains typical centrosomal proteins, such as centrosomin, pericentrin-like protein, γ-tubulin, that undergo redistribution as spermatid differentiation proceeds. The spermatid centrioles are long structures formed by nine doublet rather than triplet microtubules provided with short projections extending towards the surrounding cytoplasm and with links between doublets. The sperm basal bodies are aligned in parallel beneath the nucleus. They consist of long regions close to the nucleus showing nine doublets in a cartwheel array devoid of any projections; on the contrary, the short region close to the plasma membrane, where the sperm flagella emerge, is characterized by projections similar to those observed in the centrioles linking the basal body to the plasma membrane. It is hypothesized that this appearance is in connection with the centriole elongation and further with the flagellar axonemal organization. Microtubule doublets of sperm flagellar axonemes are provided with outer dynein arms, while inner arms are rarely visible. Cell Motil. Cytoskeleton 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.