Centrosomes, composed of centrioles that recruit a pericentriolar material (PCM) matrix assembled from PCNT and CDK5RAP2, catalyze mitotic spindle assembly. Here, we inhibit centriole formation and/or remove PCNT–CDK5RAP2 in RPE1 cells to address their relative contributions to spindle formation. While CDK5RAP2 and PCNT are normally dispensable for spindle formation, they become essential when centrioles are absent. Acentriolar spindle assembly is accompanied by the formation of foci containing PCNT and CDK5RAP2 via a microtubule and Polo-like kinase 1–dependent process. Foci formation and spindle assembly require PCNT-CDK5RAP2–dependent matrix assembly and the ability of CDK5RAP2 to recruit γ-tubulin complexes. Thus, the PCM matrix can self-organize independently of centrioles to generate microtubules for spindle assembly; conversely, an alternative centriole-anchored mechanism supports spindle assembly when the PCM matrix is absent. Extension to three cancer cell lines revealed similar results in HeLa cells, whereas DLD1 and U2OS cells could assemble spindles in the absence of centrioles and PCNT-CDK5RAP2, suggesting cell type variation in spindle assembly mechanisms.

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