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Mol Biol Cell. 2017 Jan 15;28(2):233-239. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E16-07-0505.

Trafficking to the primary cilium membrane.

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Department of Cell Biology, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390
Department of Cell Biology, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390.


The primary cilium has been found to be associated with a number of cellular signaling pathways, such as vertebrate hedgehog signaling, and implicated in the pathogenesis of diseases affecting multiple organs, including the neural tube, kidney, and brain. The primary cilium is the site where a subset of the cell's membrane proteins is enriched. However, pathways that target and concentrate membrane proteins in cilia are not well understood. Processes determining the level of proteins in the ciliary membrane include entry into the compartment, removal, and retention by diffusion barriers such as the transition zone. Proteins that are concentrated in the ciliary membrane are also localized to other cellular sites. Thus it is critical to determine the particular role for ciliary compartmentalization in sensory reception and signaling pathways. Here we provide a brief overview of our current understanding of compartmentalization of proteins in the ciliary membrane and the dynamics of trafficking into and out of the cilium. We also discuss major unanswered questions regarding the role that defects in ciliary compartmentalization might play in disease pathogenesis. Understanding the trafficking mechanisms that underlie the role of ciliary compartmentalization in signaling might provide unique approaches for intervention in progressive ciliopathies.

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