The exocyst acting through the primary cilium is necessary for renal ciliogenesis, cystogenesis, and tubulogenesis

J Biol Chem. 2019 Apr 26;294(17):6710-6718. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA118.006527. Epub 2019 Mar 1.


The exocyst is a highly conserved protein complex found in most eukaryotic cells and is associated with many functions, including protein translocation in the endoplasmic reticulum, vesicular basolateral targeting, and ciliogenesis in the kidney. To investigate the exocyst functions, here we exchanged proline for alanine in the highly conserved VXPX ciliary targeting motif of EXOC5 (exocyst complex component 5), a central exocyst gene/protein, and generated stable EXOC5 ciliary targeting sequence-mutated (EXOC5CTS-m) Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells. The EXOC5CTS-m protein was stable and could bind other members of the exocyst complex. Culturing stable control, EXOC5-overexpressing (OE), Exoc5-knockdown (KD), and EXOC5CTS-m MDCK cells on Transwell filters, we found that primary ciliogenesis is increased in EXOC5 OE cells and inhibited in Exoc5-KD and EXOC5CTS-m cells. Growing cells in collagen gels until the cyst stage, we noted that EXOC5-OE cells form mature cysts with single lumens more rapidly than control cysts, whereas Exoc5-KD and EXOC5CTS-m MDCK cells failed to form mature cysts. Adding hepatocyte growth factor to induce tubulogenesis, we observed that EXOC5-OE cell cysts form tubules more efficiently than control MDCK cell cysts, EXOC5CTS-m MDCK cell cysts form significantly fewer tubules than control cell cysts, and Exoc5-KD cysts did not undergo tubulogenesis. Finally, we show that EXOC5 mRNA almost completely rescues the ciliary phenotypes in exoc5-mutant zebrafish, unlike the EXOC5CTS-m mRNA, which could not efficiently rescue the phenotypes. Taken together, these results indicate that the exocyst, acting through the primary cilium, is necessary for renal ciliogenesis, cystogenesis, and tubulogenesis.

Keywords: cell biology; cilia; ciliary targeting sequence; development; exocyst; exocytosis; primary cilia; protein trafficking; trafficking; vesicle.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cilia / physiology*
  • Cysts / pathology*
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • Dogs
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology
  • Kidney Tubules / growth & development*
  • Madin Darby Canine Kidney Cells
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Transport
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Zebrafish


  • DNA, Complementary
  • EXOC5 protein, human
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins

Associated data

  • PDB/5h11