Sensing extracellular milieu is a fundamental requirement of cells. To facilitate and specify sensory reception, mammalian cells develop an antenna-like structure denoted as the primary cilia. Nearly all interphase and nondividing cells in vertebrates have a single, nonmotile seemingly unspecialized cilium (called a primary cilium). In the central nervous system, astrocytes express primary cilia, but their function in astrocytes has not been examined. Recent studies have shown that primary cilia unite receptors and the machinery of signal-transduction components, such as Wnt and Hedgehog (Hh) signaling cascades. Although, Hh signaling cascades are known to be activated in various cells during development, their physiological functions in the adult nervous system, especially in glial cells, are still unknown. In this study, we reveal that glial primary cilia receive the Hh signal and regulate the survival of astrocytes under stressed conditions such as starvation. Interestingly, increased astrocyte survival was reversed by knockdown of Ift20, which is one of the main components for building primary cilia. These results collectively indicate that the activation of Hh signaling in the primary cilia plays an important role in the survival of astrocytes under stressed conditions.
© 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.