Overview of structure and function of mammalian cilia

Annu Rev Physiol. 2007;69:377-400. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.69.040705.141236.


Cilia are membrane-bounded, centriole-derived projections from the cell surface that contain a microtubule cytoskeleton, the ciliary axoneme, surrounded by a ciliary membrane. Axonemes in multiciliated cells of mammalian epithelia are 9 + 2, possess dynein arms, and are motile. In contrast, single nonmotile 9 + 0 primary cilia are found on epithelial cells, such as those of the kidney tubule, but also on nonepithelial cells, such as chondrocytes, fibroblasts, and neurons. The ciliary membranes of all cilia contain specific receptors and ion channel proteins that initiate signaling pathways controlling motility and/or linking mechanical or chemical stimuli, including sonic hedgehog and growth factors, to intracellular transduction cascades regulating differentiation, migration, and cell growth during development and in adulthood. Unique motile 9 + 0 cilia, found during development at the embryonic node, determine left-right asymmetry of the body.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cilia / metabolism
  • Cilia / physiology*
  • Cilia / ultrastructure*
  • Connective Tissue / physiology
  • Connective Tissue / ultrastructure
  • Hedgehog Proteins / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mammals / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Wnt Proteins / physiology


  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Wnt Proteins