Decoding cilia function: defining specialized genes required for compartmentalized cilia biogenesis

Cell. 2004 May 14;117(4):527-39. doi: 10.1016/s0092-8674(04)00412-x.


The evolution of the ancestral eukaryotic flagellum is an example of a cellular organelle that became dispensable in some modern eukaryotes while remaining an essential motile and sensory apparatus in others. To help define the repertoire of specialized proteins needed for the formation and function of cilia, we used comparative genomics to analyze the genomes of organisms with prototypical cilia, modified cilia, or no cilia and identified approximately 200 genes that are absent in the genomes of nonciliated eukaryotes but are conserved in ciliated organisms. Importantly, over 80% of the known ancestral proteins involved in cilia function are included in this small collection. Using Drosophila as a model system, we then characterized a novel family of proteins (OSEGs: outer segment) essential for ciliogenesis. We show that osegs encode components of a specialized transport pathway unique to the cilia compartment and are related to prototypical intracellular transport proteins.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics*
  • Carrier Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Cell Compartmentation / genetics*
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Cilia / genetics*
  • Cilia / ultrastructure
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Eukaryotic Cells / cytology
  • Eukaryotic Cells / physiology*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics*
  • Genome
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neurons, Afferent / cytology
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Phylogeny


  • Carrier Proteins