Connecting cilia: cellular antennae help cells stick together
25 Apr 2012
Primary cilia are hair-like structures which protrude from almost all mammalian cells. They are thought to be sensory and involved in sampling the cell’s environment. New research, published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Cilia, launched today, shows that cilia on cells in the retina and liver are able to make stable connections with each other - indicating that cilia not only are able to sense their environment but are also involved in cell communication.
Primary cilia are structurally and functionally very similar to eukaryotic flagella (motile tails used to propel microorganisms). For many decades it was thought that cilia on human cells were primarily for movement, for example, cilia on respiratory cells drive mucous up and out of the airways by beating together, however it is now believed that they are also ‘cellular antennae’ - important for cell to cell communication.
In order to find out how these cilia could physically communicate Carolyn Ott and Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, examined primary cilia from the retina, bile duct and in cultured cells. In all cases, cilia between nearby cells formed long-lasting contacts with each other, something that has never been observed before. The adhesions between cilia lasted hours or days and were dependent on interactions between glycoproteins (proteins with a sugar molecule attached).
Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz explained, “A number of human genetic diseases, including Bardet-Biedl syndrome, nephronophthisis, Joubert, and Meckel-Gruber syndrome, are due to defects in ciliary trafficking and signaling. Our study suggests that cilia are active transmitters and seek out neighboring cells to communicate with. These newly discovered cilia-cilia contacts may be disrupted in ciliopathies, an intriguing possibility that requires further investigation.”
The findings are published in Cilia, a new Open Access journal from BioMed Central. Cilia is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes high quality basic and translational research on the biology of cilia and diseases associated with ciliary dysfunction. Research approaches include cell and developmental biology, use of model organisms, and human and molecular genetics.
Dr Hilary Glover
Scientific Press Officer, BioMed Central
Tel: +44 (0) 20 3192 2370
Mob: +44 (0) 778 698 1967
Notes to Editors
1. Primary cilia utilize glycoprotein-dependent adhesion mechanisms to stabilize long-lasting cilia-cilia contacts
Carolyn M Ott, Natalie Elia, Suh Young Jeong, Christine Insinna, Prabuddha Sengupta and Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz
Cilia 2012, 1:3 doi:10.1186/2046-2530-1-3
Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central’s open access policy.
Article citation and URL available on request on the day of publication.
2. Cilia is an open access peer-reviewed journal that publishes high quality basic and translational research on the biology of cilia and diseases associated with ciliary dysfunction. Research approaches include cell and developmental biology, use of model organisms, and human and molecular genetics.
3. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.