The centrosome is an important microtubule-organising centre (MTOC) in animal cells. It consists of two barrel-shaped structures, the centrioles, surrounded by the pericentriolar material (PCM), which nucleates microtubules. Centrosomes can form close to an existing structure (canonical duplication) or de novo. How centrosomes form de novo is not known. The master driver of centrosome biogenesis, PLK4, is critical for the recruitment of several centriole components. Here, we investigate the beginning of centrosome biogenesis, taking advantage of Xenopus egg extracts, where PLK4 can induce de novo MTOC formation ( Eckerdt et al., 2011; Zitouni et al., 2016). Surprisingly, we observe that in vitro, PLK4 can self-assemble into condensates that recruit α- and β-tubulins. In Xenopus extracts, PLK4 assemblies additionally recruit STIL, a substrate of PLK4, and the microtubule nucleator γ-tubulin, forming acentriolar MTOCs de novo. The assembly of these robust microtubule asters is independent of dynein, similar to what is found for centrosomes. We suggest a new mechanism of action for PLK4, where it forms a self-organising catalytic scaffold that recruits centriole components, PCM factors and α- and β-tubulins, leading to MTOC formation.
Summary: PLK4 binds to microtubules and self-assembles into condensates that recruit tubulin and trigger de novo microtubule-organising centre formation in vitro.