Survey of the ciliary motility machinery of Drosophila sperm and ciliated mechanosensory neurons reveals unexpected cell-type specific variations: a model for motile ciliopathies

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Abstract

The motile cilium/flagellum is an ancient eukaryotic organelle. The molecular machinery of ciliary motility comprises a variety of cilium-specific dynein motor complexes along with other complexes that regulate their activity. Assembling the motors requires the function of dedicated “assembly factors” and transport processes. In humans, mutation of any one of at least 40 different genes encoding components of the motility apparatus causes Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD), a disease of defective ciliary motility. Recently, Drosophila has emerged as a model for motile cilia biology and motile ciliopathies. This is somewhat surprising as most Drosophila cells lack cilia, and motile cilia are confined to just two specialized cell types: the sperm flagellum with a 9+2 axoneme and the ciliated dendrite of auditory/proprioceptive (chordotonal, Ch) neurons with a 9+0 axoneme. To determine the utility of Drosophila as a model for motile cilia, we survey the Drosophila genome for ciliary motility gene homologs, and assess their expression and function. We find that the molecules of cilium motility are well conserved in Drosophila. Most are readily characterized by their restricted cell-type specific expression patterns and phenotypes. There are also striking differences between the two motile ciliated cell types. Notably, sperm and Ch neuron cilia express and require entirely different outer dynein arm variants—the first time this has been clearly established in any organism. These differences might reflect the specialized functions for motility in the two cilium types. Moreover, the Ch neuron cilia lack the critical two-headed inner arm dynein (I1/f) but surprisingly retain key regulatory proteins previously associated with it. This may have implications for other motile 9+0 cilia, including vertebrate embryonic nodal cilia required for left-right axis asymmetry. We discuss the possibility that cell-type specificity in ciliary motility machinery might occur in humans, and therefore underlie some of the phenotypic variation observed in PCD caused by different gene mutations. Our work lays the foundation for the increasing use of Drosophila as an excellent model for new motile ciliary gene discovery and validation, for understanding motile cilium function and assembly, as well as understanding the nature of genetic defects underlying human motile ciliopathies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in genetics
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019

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