Primary cilia are ubiquitous sensory organelles that concentrate transmembrane signaling proteins essential for sensing environmental cues. Mislocalization of crucial ciliary signaling proteins, such as the tetrameric cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels, can lead to cellular dysfunction and disease. Although several cis- and trans-acting factors required for ciliary protein trafficking and localization have been identified, whether these mechanisms act in a protein- and cell-specific manner is largely unknown. Here, we show that CNG channel subunits can be localized to discrete ciliary compartments in individual sensory neurons in C. elegans, suggesting that channel composition is heterogeneous across the cilium. We demonstrate that ciliary localization of CNG channel subunits is interdependent on different channel subunits in specific cells, and identify sequences required for efficient ciliary targeting and localization of the TAX-2 CNGB and TAX-4 CNGA subunits. Using a candidate gene approach, we show that Inversin, transition zone proteins, intraflagellar transport motors and a MYND-domain protein are required to traffic and/or localize CNG channel subunits in both a cell- and channel subunit-specific manner. We further find that TAX-2 and TAX-4 are relatively immobile in specific sensory cilia subcompartments, suggesting that these proteins undergo minimal turnover in these domains in mature cilia. Our results uncover unexpected diversity in the mechanisms that traffic and localize CNG channel subunits to cilia both within and across cell types, highlighting the essential contribution of this process to cellular functions.
Keywords: C. elegans; CNG channels; Cilia.