Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) are highly effective serial killers capable of destroying virally infected and cancerous targets by polarized release from secretory lysosomes. Upon target contact, the CTL centrosome rapidly moves to the immunological synapse, focusing microtubule-directed release at this point [1-3]. Striking similarities have been noted between centrosome polarization at the synapse and basal body docking during ciliogenesis [1, 4-8], suggesting that CTL centrosomes might dock with the plasma membrane during killing, in a manner analogous to primary cilia formation [1, 4]. However, questions remain regarding the extent and function of centrosome polarization at the synapse, and recent reports have challenged its role [9, 10]. Here, we use high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (TEM) tomography analysis to show that, as in ciliogenesis, the distal appendages of the CTL mother centriole contact the plasma membrane directly during synapse formation. This is functionally important as small interfering RNA (siRNA) targeting of the distal appendage protein, Cep83, required for membrane contact during ciliogenesis , impairs CTL secretion. Furthermore, the regulatory proteins CP110 and Cep97, which must dissociate from the mother centriole to allow cilia formation , remain associated with the mother centriole in CTLs, and neither axoneme nor transition zone ciliary structures form. Moreover, complete centrosome docking can occur in proliferating CTLs with multiple centriole pairs. Thus, in CTLs, centrosomes dock transiently with the membrane, within the cell cycle and without progression into ciliogenesis. We propose that this transient centrosome docking without cilia formation is important for CTLs to deliver rapid, repeated polarized secretion directed by the centrosome.