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Cilia. 2012 Apr 25;1(1):4. doi: 10.1186/2046-2530-1-4.

Trafficking in and to the primary cilium.

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Department of Biology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180, USA.
Albany Medical College, Center for Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience, Albany, NY 12208, USA.
Department of Neurology, Albany Medical College, Albany, NY 12208, USA.
Contributed equally


Polarized vesicle trafficking is mediated by small GTPase proteins, such as Rabs and Arls/Arfs. These proteins have essential roles in maintaining normal cellular function, in part, through regulating intracellular trafficking. Moreover, these families of proteins have recently been implicated in the formation and function of the primary cilium. The primary cilium, which is found on almost every cell type in vertebrates, is an organelle that protrudes from the surface of the cell and functions as a signaling center. Interestingly, it has recently been linked to a variety of human diseases, collectively referred to as ciliopathies. The primary cilium has an exceptionally high density of receptors on its membrane that are important for sensing and transducing extracellular stimuli. Moreover, the primary cilium serves as a separate cellular compartment from the cytosol, providing for unique spatial and temporal regulation of signaling molecules to initiate downstream events. Thus, functional primary cilia are essential for normal signal transduction. Rabs and Arls/Arfs play critical roles in early cilia formation but are also needed for maintenance of ciliary function through their coordination with intraflagellar transport (IFT), a specialized trafficking system in primary cilia. IFT in cilia is pivotal for the proper movement of proteins into and out of this highly regulated organelle. In this review article, we explore the involvement of polarized vesicular trafficking in cilia formation and function, and discuss how defects in these processes could subsequently lead to the abnormalities observed in ciliopathies.

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