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Curr Biol. 2006 Aug 8;16(15):R604-14.

Cilia: tuning in to the cell's antenna.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California San Francisco, 600 16th St., San Francisco, California 94143, USA.


Cilia are microtubule-based organelles that project like antennae from the surface of most cells in the body. Motile cilia move fluid past cells, for example mucus in the airway. Non-motile primary cilia, however, transduce a multitude of sensory stimuli, including chemical concentrations of growth factors, hormones, odorants, and developmental morphogens, as well as osmolarity, light intensity, and fluid flow. Cilia have evolved a complex ultrastructure to accommodate these diverse functions, and an extensive molecular machinery has developed to support the assembly of these organelles. Defects in the cilia themselves, or the machinery required to assemble them, lead to a broad spectrum of human disease symptoms, including polycystic kidney disease, nephronophthisis, hydrocephalus, polydactyly, situs inversus, retinal degeneration, and obesity. While these diseases highlight the pivotal roles of cilia in physiology and development, the mechanistic link between cilia, physiology, and disease remains unclear.

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