Cilia orientation and the fluid mechanics of development

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2008 Feb;20(1):48-52. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2008 Jan 14.


Motile cilia produce large-scale fluid flows crucial for development and physiology. Defects in ciliary motility cause a range of disease symptoms including bronchiectasis, hydrocephalus, and situs inversus. However, it is not enough for cilia to be motile and generate a flow -- the flow must be driven in the proper direction. Generation of properly directed coherent flow requires that the cilia are properly oriented relative to tissue axes. Genetic, molecular, and ultrastructural studies have begun to suggest pathways linking cilia orientation to planar cell polarity (PCP) and other long-range positional cues and also suggest that cilia-driven flow can itself play a causal role in orienting the cilia that create it. Errors in cilia orientation have been observed in human ciliary disease patients, suggesting that orientation defects may constitute a novel class of ciliopathies with a distinct etiology at the cell biological level.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Polarity*
  • Cilia / metabolism*
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Humans
  • Rheology