Cilia: tuning in to the cell's antenna

Curr Biol. 2006 Aug 8;16(15):R604-14. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2006.07.012.


Cilia are microtubule-based organelles that project like antennae from the surface of most cells in the body. Motile cilia move fluid past cells, for example mucus in the airway. Non-motile primary cilia, however, transduce a multitude of sensory stimuli, including chemical concentrations of growth factors, hormones, odorants, and developmental morphogens, as well as osmolarity, light intensity, and fluid flow. Cilia have evolved a complex ultrastructure to accommodate these diverse functions, and an extensive molecular machinery has developed to support the assembly of these organelles. Defects in the cilia themselves, or the machinery required to assemble them, lead to a broad spectrum of human disease symptoms, including polycystic kidney disease, nephronophthisis, hydrocephalus, polydactyly, situs inversus, retinal degeneration, and obesity. While these diseases highlight the pivotal roles of cilia in physiology and development, the mechanistic link between cilia, physiology, and disease remains unclear.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Cilia / physiology*
  • Cilia / ultrastructure*
  • Ciliary Motility Disorders / etiology
  • Ciliary Motility Disorders / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Polycystic Kidney Diseases / etiology
  • Polycystic Kidney Diseases / physiopathology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*