The mechanosensory hair cells of the inner ear are required for hearing and balance and have a distinctive apical structure, the hair bundle, that converts mechanical stimuli into electrical signals. This structure comprises a single cilium, the kinocilium, lying adjacent to an ensemble of actin-based projections known as stereocilia. Hair bundle polarity depends on kinociliary protocadherin-15 (Pcdh15) localization. Protocadherin-15 is found only in hair-cell kinocilia, and is not localized to the primary cilia of adjacent supporting cells. Thus, Pcdh15 must be specifically targeted and trafficked into the hair-cell kinocilium. Here we show that kinocilial Pcdh15 trafficking relies on cell type-specific coupling to the generic intraflagellar transport (IFT) transport mechanism. We uncover a role for fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (FGFR1) in loading Pcdh15 onto kinociliary transport particles in hair cells. We find that on activation, FGFR1 binds and phosphorylates Pcdh15. Moreover, we find a previously uncharacterized role for clathrin in coupling this kinocilia-specific cargo with the anterograde IFT-B complex through the adaptor, DAB2. Our results identify a modified ciliary transport pathway used for Pcdh15 transport into the cilium of the inner ear hair cell and coordinated by FGFR1 activity.
Keywords: ciliogenesis; fibroblast growth factor; inner ear; protein trafficking; signaling.