Multiciliated cell basal bodies align in stereotypical patterns coordinated by the apical cytoskeleton

J Cell Biol. 2016 Aug 29;214(5):571-86. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201601023.


Multiciliated cells (MCCs) promote fluid flow through coordinated ciliary beating, which requires properly organized basal bodies (BBs). Airway MCCs have large numbers of BBs, which are uniformly oriented and, as we show here, align linearly. The mechanism for BB alignment is unexplored. To study this mechanism, we developed a long-term and high-resolution live-imaging system and used it to observe green fluorescent protein-centrin2-labeled BBs in cultured mouse tracheal MCCs. During MCC differentiation, the BB array adopted four stereotypical patterns, from a clustering "floret" pattern to the linear "alignment." This alignment process was correlated with BB orientations, revealed by double immunostaining for BBs and their asymmetrically associated basal feet (BF). The BB alignment was disrupted by disturbing apical microtubules with nocodazole and by a BF-depleting Odf2 mutation. We constructed a theoretical model, which indicated that the apical cytoskeleton, acting like a viscoelastic fluid, provides a self-organizing mechanism in tracheal MCCs to align BBs linearly for mucociliary transport.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Basal Bodies / drug effects
  • Basal Bodies / metabolism*
  • Basal Bodies / ultrastructure
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Polarity / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell Tracking
  • Cilia / drug effects
  • Cilia / metabolism*
  • Cilia / ultrastructure
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cytoskeleton / drug effects
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Biological
  • Nocodazole / pharmacology
  • Polymerization
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography
  • Trachea / cytology


  • Actins
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Cetn2 protein, mouse
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Nocodazole