Olfactory cilia: linking sensory cilia function and human disease

Chem Senses. 2009 Jun;34(5):451-64. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjp020. Epub 2009 Apr 30.


The olfactory system gives us an awareness of our immediate environment by allowing us to detect airborne stimuli. The components necessary for detection of these odorants are compartmentalized in the cilia of olfactory sensory neurons. Cilia are microtubule-based organelles, which can be found projecting from the surface of almost any mammalian cell, and are critical for proper olfactory function. Mislocalization of ciliary proteins and/or the loss of cilia cause impaired olfactory function, which is now recognized as a clinical manifestation of a broad class of human diseases, termed ciliopathies. Future work investigating the mechanisms of olfactory cilia function will provide us important new information regarding the pathogenesis of human sensory perception diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cilia / genetics
  • Cilia / physiology
  • Cilia / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Olfaction Disorders / genetics*
  • Olfaction Disorders / metabolism
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology
  • Olfactory Receptor Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Smell / physiology*