Loss of primary cilia promotes inflammation and carcinogenesis

EMBO Rep. 2022 Dec 6;23(12):e55687. doi: 10.15252/embr.202255687. Epub 2022 Oct 25.


Primary cilia (PC) are important signaling hubs, and we here explored their role in colonic pathology. In the colon, PC are mostly present on fibroblasts, and exposure of mice to either chemically induced colitis-associated colon carcinogenesis (CAC) or dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced acute colitis decreases PC numbers. We generated conditional knockout mice with reduced numbers of PC on colonic fibroblasts. These mice show increased susceptibility to CAC, as well as DSS-induced colitis. Secretome and immunohistochemical analyses of DSS-treated mice display an elevated production of the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6 in PC-deficient colons. An inflammatory environment diminishes PC presence in primary fibroblast cultures, which is triggered by IL-6 as identified by RNA-seq analysis together with blocking experiments. These findings suggest an activation loop between IL-6 production and PC loss. An analysis of PC presence on biopsies of patients with ulcerative colitis or colorectal cancer (CRC) reveals decreased numbers of PC on colonic fibroblasts in pathological compared with surrounding normal tissue. Taken together, we provide evidence that a decrease in colonic PC numbers promotes colitis and CRC.

Keywords: colitis; colon carcinogenesis; colonic fibroblasts; inflammation; primary cilia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cilia*
  • Interleukin-6* / genetics
  • Mice


  • Interleukin-6