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Biol Cell. 2011 Mar;103(3):131-44. doi: 10.1042/BC20100128.

The ciliary pocket: a once-forgotten membrane domain at the base of cilia.

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Inserm, U1016, Institut Cochin, CNRS UMR2581, Paris, France.


The PC (primary cilium) is present on most cell types in both developing and adult tissues in vertebrates. Despite multiple reports in the 1960s, the PC was almost forgotten for decades by most of the cell biology community, mainly because its function appeared enigmatic. This situation changed 10 years ago with the key discovery that this fascinating structure is the missing link between complex genetic diseases and key signalling pathways during development and tissue homoeostasis. A similar misfortune might have happened to an original membrane domain found at the base of PC in most cell types and recently termed the 'ciliary pocket'. A morphologically related structure has also been described at the connecting cilium of photoreceptors and at the flagellum in spermatids. Its organization is also reminiscent of the flagellar pocket, a plasma membrane invagination specialized in uptake and secretion encountered in kinetoplastid protozoa. The exact function of the ciliary pocket remains to be established, but the recent observation of endocytic activity coupled to the fact that vesicular trafficking plays important roles during ciliogenesis brought excitement in the ciliary community. Here, we have tried to decipher what this highly conserved membrane domain could tell us about the function and/or biogenesis of the associated cilium.

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