What Is the Difference Between a Centriole & a Centrosome?

By Richard Gaughan
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Chemical products from one part of your cells are constantly moving to other parts of a cell. To help move things around, your cells have a internal "monorail" network made from long filamentary proteins called microtubules. Microtubules have many other jobs in the cell, and to make sure they do those jobs, your cell has microtubule organizational centers. The most important is the centrosome, an organelle that is made from two centrioles and some other proteins.


Centrioles are discs built from microtubule material, with nine microtubules arranged in a cylinder. Each of the nine microtubules has two connected short microtubules. When the cell is not dividing, two centrioles are paired with each other at 90 degree angles. Along with some other proteins, the two centrioles combine to make the centrosome.

The Role of Centrosomes

In addition to serving as a hub for microtubules during normal cell processes, the centrosome is critical for cell division. Because each daughter cell needs a centrosome, the centrosome must duplicate before cell division takes place. The two centrioles separate and produce copies of themselves. The result is two pairs where there used to be one, which combine to make two centrosomes.

About the Author

First published in 1998, Richard Gaughan has contributed to publications such as "Photonics Spectra," "The Scientist" and other magazines. He is the author of "Accidental Genius: The World's Greatest By-Chance Discoveries." Gaughan holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from the University of Chicago.