Ciliary beat pattern is associated with specific ultrastructural defects in primary ciliary dyskinesia

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003 Sep;112(3):518-24. doi: 10.1016/s0091-6749(03)01799-8.


Background: The main symptoms of primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) are nasal rhinorrhea or blockage and moist-sounding cough. Diagnosis can be difficult and is based on an abnormal ciliary beat frequency, accompanied by specific abnormalities of the ciliary axoneme. It is unknown whether determining ciliary beat pattern related to specific ultrastructural ciliary defects might help in the diagnosis of PCD.

Objective: We sought to determine ciliary beat pattern and beat frequency (CBF) associated with the 5 common ultrastructural defects responsible for PCD.

Methods: Nasal brushings were performed on 56 children with PCD. Ciliary movement was recorded using digital high-speed video imaging to assess beat frequency and pattern. Electron microscopy was performed.

Results: In patients with an isolated outer dynein arm or with an outer and inner dynein arm defect, 55% and 80% of cilia were immotile, respectively. Cilia that moved were only flickering. Mean CBF (+/- 95% CI) was 2.3 Hz (+/- 1.2) and 0.8 Hz(+/- 0.8), respectively. Cilia with an isolated inner dynein arm or a radial spoke defect had similar beat patterns. Cilia appeared stiff, had a reduced amplitude, and failed to bend along their length. Immotile cilia were present in 10% of cilia with an inner dynein arm defect and in 30% of radial spoke defects. Mean CBF was 9.3 Hz (+/- 2.6) and 6.0 Hz (+/- 3.1), respectively. The ciliary transposition defect produced a large circular beat pattern (mean CBF, 10.7 Hz [+/- 1.1]). No cilia were immotile.

Conclusions: Different ultrastructural defects responsible for PCD result in predictable beat patterns. Recognition of these might help in the diagnostic evaluation of patients suspected of having PCD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cilia / physiology*
  • Cilia / ultrastructure*
  • Dyneins / physiology
  • Dyneins / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Infant
  • Kartagener Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Kartagener Syndrome / pathology*
  • Kartagener Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Video
  • Models, Biological
  • Periodicity


  • Dyneins