ABSTRACT To gain a holistic understanding of cellular function, we must understand not just the role of individual organelles, but also how multiple macromolecular assemblies function collectively. Centrioles produce fundamental cellular processes through their ability to organise cytoskeletal fibres. In addition to nucleating microtubules, centrioles form lesser-known polymers, termed rootlets. Rootlets were identified over a 100 years ago and have been documented morphologically since by electron microscopy in different eukaryotic organisms. Rootlet-knockout animals have been created in various systems, providing insight into their physiological functions. However, the precise structure and function of rootlets is still enigmatic. Here, I consider common themes of rootlet function and assembly across diverse cellular systems. I suggest that the capability of rootlets to form physical links from centrioles to other cellular structures is a general principle unifying their functions in diverse cells and serves as an example of how cellular function arises from collective organellar activity.