IMR Press / FBS / Volume 4 / Issue 3 / DOI: 10.2741/S320

Frontiers in Bioscience-Scholar (FBS) is published by IMR Press from Volume 13 Issue 1 (2021). Previous articles were published by another publisher on a subscription basis, and they are hosted by IMR Press on as a courtesy and upon agreement with Frontiers in Bioscience.

Sensory functions of motile cilia and implication for bronchiectasis
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1 Departments of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, 63110, USA
2 Department of Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390, USA
3 Departments of Radiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, 63110, USA
4 Departments of Pediatrics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, 63110, USA

*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.


Front. Biosci. (Schol Ed) 2012, 4(3), 1088–1098;
Published: 1 January 2012

Cilia are specialized organelles that extend from the cell surface into the local environment. Cilia of the airway epithelia are motile to provide mucociliary clearance. On other cells, solitary cilia are specialized to detect chemical or mechanosensory signals. Sensory proteins in motile cilia have recently been identified that detect fluid flow, bitter taste and sex hormones. The relationship of these sensory functions in motile cilia to disease is now being revealed. An example are the polycystin-1 and polycystin-2 proteins that function as a flow sensor in kidney cilia and are mutated in autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). These polycystins are also expressed in motile cilia, potentially operating as sensors in the lung. Computed tomography studies from patients with ADPKD reveal evidence of bronchiectasis, suggesting polycystins are important in lung function. The motile cilia expression of this proteincomplex, as well as sensory channel TRPV4, bitter taste and sex hormones receptors, indicate that the cilia is wired to interpret environmental cues. Defective signaling of sensory proteins may result in a ciliopathy that includes lung disease. 

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