Cilia and Mucociliary Clearance

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2017 Apr 3;9(4):a028241. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a028241.


Mucociliary clearance (MCC) is the primary innate defense mechanism of the lung. The functional components are the protective mucous layer, the airway surface liquid layer, and the cilia on the surface of ciliated cells. The cilia are specialized organelles that beat in metachronal waves to propel pathogens and inhaled particles trapped in the mucous layer out of the airways. In health this clearance mechanism is effective, but in patients with primary cilia dyskinesia (PCD) the cilia are abnormal, resulting in deficient MCC and chronic lung disease. This demonstrates the critical importance of the cilia for human health. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge of the components of the MCC apparatus, focusing on the role of cilia in MCC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cilia / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lung / cytology
  • Mucociliary Clearance / physiology*