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Centrioles are a small group of microtubules which lie close to the nucleus of a cell.  They are an essential part of all animal cells.  Typically, they occur in pairs, but they are not visible during regular cell activities. They become visible during their primary function: cell division.

3D illustration of centrioles made up of microtubules.

Centrioles Function

The chief function of centrioles is to help the cell to undergo division. This could be either mitosis (asexual reproduction) or meiosis (sexual reproduction). 
A secondary function of centrioles is to arrange the cell’s organelles. They do so by influencing the positions of microtubules within the cytoplasm. This is an important aspect of healthy cell growth and division. Poor organization can lead to genetic instability and the formation of tumors. This structural information passes on to daughter cells in cell division and ensures their longevity.


Cartoon Animal Cell Anatomy Banner Card Poster Scientific or Education Concept Flat Design Style. Vector illustration of Structure

Centrioles are not visible during interphase but exist in the centrosome


Location of Centrioles

Centrioles are invisible when the cell is not dividing.  This phase is also known as interphase. When the time comes for cell division (mitosis or meiosis), a pair appears from the centrosome. The pair duplicates and each moves to an opposite side of the cell. 

Centrioles in Cell Division

Once the two pairs move to each side of the cell, the centrioles get to work. During prophase, they connect themselves to chromosomes using spindle fibers. They pull the chromosomes apart until the entire cell begins to split down the middle. New nuclear membranes begin to form around the separated chromosomes, called telophase. The process is complete after the two new cells separate completely and new cell membranes form, also called cytokinesis.

Illustration of the role of centrioles, spindle and chromosomes in mitosis.

Centrioles help split the cell apart during cell division

Each new cell will have its own pair of centrioles, which are hidden until the new cell divides again. This is a cycle that continues, with daughter cells eventually growing and splitting into new daughter cells. Cell division is one of the true wonders of the biological world. 

Written by: Tenaer Yin