Structural Biology of Cilia and Intraflagellar Transport



Cilia are ubiquitous microtubule-based eukaryotic organelles that project from the cell to generate motility or function in cellular signaling. Motile cilia or flagella contain axonemal dynein motors and other complexes to achieve beating. Primary cilia are immotile and act as signaling hubs, with receptors shuttling between the cytoplasm and ciliary compartment. In both cilia types, an intraflagellar transport (IFT) system powered by unique kinesin and dynein motors functions to deliver the molecules required to build cilia and maintain their functions. Cryo-electron tomography has helped to reveal the organization of protein complex arrangement along the axoneme and the structure of anterograde IFT trains as well as the structure of primary cilia. Only recently, single-particle analysis (SPA) cryo-electron microscopy has provided molecular details of the protein organization of ciliary components, helping us to understand how they bind to microtubule doublets and how mechanical force propagated by dynein conformational changes is converted into ciliary beating. Here we highlight recent structural advances that are leading to greater knowledge of ciliary function.

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