The spindle poles of fertilized sea urchin eggs have commonly been modeled as being derived from the centrosomes of the fertilizing spermatozoon. Boveri's theory of fertilization, proposed at the turn of the century, states that the maternal centrosome is suppressed or inactivated during oogenesis and that the sperm centrosome is functionally dominant. In support of this proposal, more recent studies have shown that the sperm imports a determinant that is involved in centrosomal replication. Examination of sea urchin zygotes immunofluorescently labeled with a new anti-centrosomal antibody by quantitative confocal laser-scanning microscopy shows, however, that spindle pole centrosomes are not exclusively paternal structures, but additionally contain material derived from maternal pools. Furthermore, this maternal centrosomal material is divided among daughter blastomeres during cleavage. It therefore appears that although the sperm centrosome plays a dominant role in organizing the spindle poles, much of the centrosomal material within the spindle poles of the zygote is actually recruited from preexisting egg cytoplasmic stores. These data indicate that centrosomes of sea urchin embryos are biparentally derived, composite organelles.
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