Centrosome behavior in motile HGF-treated PtK2 cells expressing GFP-gamma tubulin. Academic Article uri icon


  • In response to locomotory cues, many motile cells have been shown to reposition their centrosome to a location in front of the nucleus, towards the direction of cell migration. We examined centrosome position in PtK(2) epithelial cells treated with hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), which stimulates motility but, unlike chemotactic agents or wounding of a monolayer, provides no directional cues. To observe centrosome movement directly, a plasmid encoding human gamma tubulin fused to the green fluorescent protein was expressed in HGF-treated cells. In cells whose movements were unconstrained by neighboring cells, we found that the position of the centrosome was not correlated with the direction of cell locomotion. Further, in cells where the direction of locomotion changed during the observation period, the centrosome did not reorient toward the new direction of locomotion. Analysis of centrosome and nuclear movement showed that motion of the centrosome often lagged behind that of the nucleus. Analysis of 249 fixed cells stained with an antibody to gamma tubulin confirmed our observations in live cells: 69% of the cells had centrosomes behind the nucleus, away from the direction of locomotion. Of these, 41% had their centrosome in the retraction tail. Confocal microscopy showed that the microtubule array in HGF treated PtK(2) cells was predominantly non-centrosomal. Because microtubules are required for efficient cellular locomotion, we propose that non-centrosomal microtubules stabilize the direction of locomotion without a requirement for reorientation of the centrosome.

publication date

  • October 2001