This investigation provides evidence that pericentriolar material is divorced from the immediate vicinities of centrioles and becomes functionally associated with the plasmalemma during the differentiation of a mammalian cell type. Such events occur prior to the assembly of large transcellular microtubule bundles in columnar epithelial cells called inner pillar cells in the mouse organ of Corti. The microtubules do not radiate from a typical centrosome and its centrioles. They elongate from a microtubule-organizing centre (MTOC), which is deployed as a subapical cell surface-associated layer in each cell. Most of the dense material of this layer, and the tops of most of the microtubules, are initially concentrated around the sides of a cell about 1 microns below its apical surface. In addition, a pair of centrioles is located above the layer, which acts as if it is a pericellular concentration of the pericentriolar material of a modified centrosome. Although microtubule nucleation takes place in a centrosome-like region, 13 protofilament fidelity is not exercised. Most of the microtubules have 15 protofilaments. Microtubule assembly progresses in these cells after the organ of Corti has been isolated for in vitro culture. However, large numbers of microtubules elongate from pericentriolar material juxtaposed against the centrioles. Hence, there is some reversion by the centrosomes of cultured cells to the operational configuration regarded as typical for animal tissue cells in general.

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