Quantitative Proteomic Analysis of Human Airway Cilia Identifies Previously Uncharacterized Proteins of High Abundance

J Proteome Res. 2017 Apr 7;16(4):1579-1592. doi: 10.1021/acs.jproteome.6b00972. Epub 2017 Mar 27.


Cilia are essential to many diverse cellular processes. Although many major axonemal components have been identified and studied, how they interact to form a functional axoneme is not completely understood. To further our understanding of the protein composition of human airway cilia, we performed a semiquantitative analysis of ciliary axonemes using label-free LC/MSE, which identified over 400 proteins with high confidence. Tubulins were the most abundant proteins identified, with evidence of 20 different isoforms obtained. Twelve different isoforms of axonemal dynein heavy chain were also identified. Absolute quantification of the nontubulin components demonstrated a greater than 75-fold range of protein abundance (RSPH9;1850 fmol vs CCDC103;24 fmol), adding another level of complexity to axonemal structure. Of the identified proteins, ∼70% are known axonemal proteins. In addition, many previously uncharacterized proteins were identified. Unexpectedly, several of these, including ERICH3, C1orf87, and CCDC181, were present at high relative abundance in the cilia. RT-PCR analysis and immunoblotting confirmed cilia-specific expression for eight uncharacterized proteins, and fluorescence microscopy demonstrated unique axonemal localizations. These studies have provided the first quantitative analysis of the ciliary proteome and have identified and characterized several previously unknown proteins as major constituents of human airway cilia.

Keywords: airway; axoneme; cilia; dynein; mass spectrometry; proteomics; radial spoke; tubulin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Axoneme / genetics*
  • Cilia / genetics*
  • Dyneins / genetics
  • Dyneins / isolation & purification
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Proteome / genetics*
  • Proteomics
  • Tubulin / genetics
  • Tubulin / isolation & purification


  • Proteins
  • Proteome
  • Tubulin
  • Dyneins