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AbstractThe accurate timing of organelle biogenesis and the precise regulation of organelle size are crucial for cell physiology. Centriole biogenesis initiates exclusively in S-phase, when a daughter centriole emerges from the side of a pre-existing mother and grows until it reaches its mother’s size. This process is regulated by Polo-like kinase 4 (Plk4), which is recruited to centrioles in oscillatory waves in flies and human cells 1,2. The nature and function of Plk4 oscillations is, however, unknown. Here we discover that Plk4 forms an adaptive oscillator at the base of the growing centriole, whose function is to time and set the duration of centriole biogenesis in Drosophila embryos. We demonstrate that the Plk4 oscillator is free-running of, but is entrained and calibrated by, the core Cdk/Cyclin cell-cycle oscillator, explaining how centrioles can duplicate independently of the cell cycle 3–5. Mathematical modelling and further experiments indicate that the Plk4 oscillator is generated by a time-delayed negative-feedback loop in which Plk4 recruitment to, and dissociation from, the centriole is monitored via changes in the affinity-state of its centriolar receptor, Asterless. We postulate that such organelle-specific autonomous oscillators could regulate the timing and execution of organelle biogenesis more generally.

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