The primary cilium as the cell's antenna: signaling at a sensory organelle

Science. 2006 Aug 4;313(5787):629-33. doi: 10.1126/science.1124534.


Almost every vertebrate cell has a specialized cell surface projection called a primary cilium. Although these structures were first described more than a century ago, the full scope of their functions remains poorly understood. Here, we review emerging evidence that in addition to their well-established roles in sight, smell, and mechanosensation, primary cilia are key participants in intercellular signaling. This new appreciation of primary cilia as cellular antennae that sense a wide variety of signals could help explain why ciliary defects underlie such a wide range of human disorders, including retinal degeneration, polycystic kidney disease, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, and neural tube defects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bardet-Biedl Syndrome / pathology
  • Bardet-Biedl Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cell Polarity
  • Cilia / physiology*
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Humans
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Models, Biological
  • Neural Tube Defects / pathology
  • Neural Tube Defects / physiopathology
  • Polycystic Kidney Diseases / pathology
  • Polycystic Kidney Diseases / physiopathology
  • Retinal Degeneration / pathology
  • Retinal Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Smell / physiology
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism


  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • Wnt Proteins