The role of the centrosomes in microtubule nucleation remains largely unknown at the molecular level. γ-Tubulin and the two associated proteins h103p (hGCP2) and h104p (hGCP3) are essential. These proteins are also present in soluble complexes containing additional polypeptides. Partial sequencing of a 76- kD polypeptide band from these complexes allowed the isolation of a cDNA encoding for a new protein (h76p = hGCP4) expressed ubiquitously in mammalian tissues. Orthologues of h76p have been characterized in Drosophila and in the higher plant Medicago. Several pieces of evidence indicate that h76p is involved in microtubule nucleation. (1) h76p is localized at the centrosome as demonstrated by immunofluorescence. (2) h76p and γ-tubulin are associated in the γ-tubulin complexes. (3) γ-tubulin complexes containing h76p bind to microtubules. (4) h76p is recruited to the spindle poles and to Xenopus sperm basal bodies. (5) h76p is necessary for aster nucleation by sperm basal bodies and recombinant h76p partially replaces endogenous 76p in oocyte extracts. Surprisingly, h76p shares partial sequence identity with human centrosomal proteins h103p and h104p, suggesting a common protein core. Hence, human γ-tubulin appears associated with at least three evolutionary related centrosomal proteins, raising new questions about their functions at the molecular level.

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