AbstractPurpose of review
Ciliopathies are genetic disorders caused by defects of primary ciliary structure and/or function and are characterized by pleiotropic clinical features. The ciliopathies include several partially overlapping syndromes such as Joubert syndrome, Bardet–Biedl syndrome and Meckel–Gruber syndrome, all of which have pronounced neurodevelopmental features. Here we focus on potential roles of cilia in central nervous system function, to explore how impairments may cause brain malformation and neurodevelopmental disease.Recent findings
Cilia have long been considered as ‘sensory cellular antennae’, responding as chemo-sensors, mechano-sensors and thermo-sensors, although their roles in development were not well understood until recently. The surprising finding that disparate syndromes are all due to defects of the primary cilia, along with the recent advances in genetics, has helped elucidate further roles of primary cilia beyond sensory functions. Several molecules that are associated with key signaling pathways have been discovered in primary cilia. These include sonic hedgehog, wingless, planar cell polarity and fibroblast growth factor, which are essential for many cellular processes. Additionally, mutations in ‘ciliome’ genes have largely shown developmental defects such as abnormal body axis and brain malformation, implying disrupted cilia-related signaling pathways. Accordingly, the emerging theme is that primary cilia may play roles as modulators of signal transduction to help shape cellular responses within the environmental context during both development and homeostasis.Summary
The link between cilia and signal pathways has become a framework for understanding the pathogenesis of ciliopathies. Despite recent progress in ciliary biology, fundamental questions remain about how cilia regulate neuronal function in the central nervous system. Therefore, investigation of ciliary function in the nervous system may reveal cilia-modulating mechanisms in neurodevelopmental processes, as well as suggest new treatments for disease.