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Biol Open. 2015 Nov 24;4(12):1733-8. doi: 10.1242/bio.014787.

The primary cilium is a self-adaptable, integrating nexus for mechanical stimuli and cellular signaling.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA Runway Program, Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute, Cornell Tech, New York, NY, 10011 USA.
Department of Mathematical Sciences, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ, 07102 USA.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA


Mechanosensation is crucial for cells to sense and respond to mechanical signals within their local environment. While adaptation allows a sensor to be conditioned by stimuli within the environment and enables its operation in a wide range of stimuli intensities, the mechanisms behind adaptation remain controversial in even the most extensively studied mechanosensor, bacterial mechanosensitive channels. Primary cilia are ubiquitous sensory organelles. They have emerged as mechanosensors across diverse tissues, including kidney, liver and the embryonic node, and deflect with mechanical stimuli. Here, we show that both mechanical and chemical stimuli can alter cilium stiffness. We found that exposure to flow stiffens the cilium, which deflects less in response to subsequent exposures to flow. We also found that through a process involving acetylation, the cell can biochemically regulate cilium stiffness. Finally, we show that this altered stiffness directly affects the responsiveness of the cell to mechanical signals. These results demonstrate a potential mechanism through which the cell can regulate its mechanosensing apparatus.


Acetylation; Adaptation; Mechanosensing; Primary cilia

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