Centrosomin is a 150 kDa centrosomal protein of Drosophila melanogaster. To study the function of Centrosomin in the centrosome, we have recovered mutations that are viable but male and female sterile (cnnmfs). We have shown that these alleles (1, 2, 3, 7, 8 and hk21) induce a maternal effect on early embryogenesis and result in the accumulation of low or undetectable levels of Centrosomin in the centrosomes of cleavage stage embryos. Hemizygous cnn females produce embryos that show dramatic defects in chromosome segregation and spindle organization during the syncytial cleavage divisions. In these embryos the syncytial divisions proceed as far as the twelfth cycle, and embryos fail to cellularize. Aberrant divisions and nuclear fusions occur in the early cycles of the nuclear divisions, and become more prominent at later stages. Giant nuclei are seen in late stage embryos. The spindles that form in mutant embryos exhibit multiple anomalies. There is a high occurrence of apparently linked spindles that share poles, indicating that Centrosomin is required for the proper spacing and separation of mitotic spindles within the syncytium. Spindle poles in the mutants contain little or no detectable amounts of the centrosomal proteins CP60, CP190 and (gamma)-tubulin and late stage embryos often do not have astral microtubules at their spindle poles. Spindle morphology and centrosomal composition suggest that the primary cause of these division defects in mutant embryos is centrosomal malfunction. These results suggest that Centrosomin is required for the assembly and function of centrosomes during the syncytial cleavage divisions.