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Keywords:

  • Organ of Corti;
  • cytoskeleton;
  • centriole;
  • γ-tubulin;
  • pericentrin

This report deals with the as yet undetermined issue of whether cell-surface associated microtubules in certain cochlear epithelial cells are centrosomally nucleated and subsequently migrate to microtubule-capturing sites located at the surface regions in question. Alternatively, the cells may possess additional nucleating sites which are noncentrosomal and surface-associated. These alternative possibilities have been investigated for highly polarised epithelial cells called supporting cells in the mouse and guinea pig organ of Corti using antibodies to pericentrin and γ-tubulin. There is substantial evidence that both proteins are essential components of microtubule-nucleating sites in cells generally. Each mature supporting cell possesses a large microtubule array that is remotely located with respect to its centrosome (more than 10 μm away). The antibodies bind to a cell's centrosome. No binding has been detected at 2 other microtubule-organising centres that are associated with the ends of the centrosomally-remote microtubule array while it is being constructed. Such arrays include thousands of microtubules in some of the cell types that have been examined. If all a cell's microtubules are nucleated by its centrosome then the findings reported above imply that microtubules escape from the centrosomal nucleating site and migrate to a new location. Furthermore, capture of the plus and minus ends of the errant microtubules is taking place because both ends of a centrosomally-remote microtubule array are attached to sites that are precisely positioned at certain cell surface locations. Minus ends are locating targets with an exactitude comparable to that which has been demonstrated for plus ends in certain cell types. These cells apparently operate a single control centre strategy for microtubule nucleation that is complemented by precise positioning of plus and minus end-capturing sites at the cell surface.