Isolation, cryotomography, and three-dimensional reconstruction of centrioles
Centrioles and basal bodies (referred to hereafter as centrioles for simplicity) are microtubule-based cylindrical organelles that are typically similar to 450-nm long and similar to 250 nm in diameter. The centriole is composed of three distinct regions: the distal part characterized by microtubule doublets, the central core that harbors microtubule triplets, which are also present in the proximal part that also contains the cartwheel, a structure crucial for centriole assembly. The cartwheel was initially revealed by conventional electron microscopy of resin-embedded samples and is thought to impart the near universal ninefold symmetry of centrioles. Deciphering the native architecture of the cartwheel has proven challenging owing to its small dimensions and the difficulties in isolating it. Here, we present a method to purify and analyze the structure of the exceptionally long Trichonympha centriole by cryotomography and subtomogram averaging. Using this method, we revealed the native architecture of the proximal cartwheel-containing region at similar to 40 angstrom-resolution. This method can be applied as a general strategy for uncovering the structure of centrioles in other species.