Cilia are microtubule-based hair-like structures that project from the surfaces of eukaryotic cells. Cilium formation relies on intraflagellar transport (IFT) to move ciliary proteins such as tubulin from the site of synthesis in the cell body to the site of function in the cilium. A large protein complex (the IFT complex) is believed to mediate interactions between cargoes and the molecular motors that walk along axonemal microtubules between the ciliary base and tip. A recent study using purified IFT complexes has identified a tubulin-binding module in the two core IFT proteins IFT74 and IFT81 that likely serves to bind and transport tubulin within cilia. Here, we calculate the amount of tubulin required to support the observed cilium assembly kinetics and explore the possibility of multiple tubulin binding sites within the IFT complex.
Intraflagellar transport (IFT) is required for the assembly and maintenance of cilia, as well as the proper function of ciliary motility and signaling. IFT is powered by molecular motors that move along the axonemal microtubules, carrying large complexes of IFT proteins that travel together as so-called trains. IFT complexes likely function as adaptors that mediate interactions between anterograde/retrograde motors and ciliary cargoes, facilitating cargo transport between the base and tip of the cilium. Here, we provide an up-to-date review of IFT complex structure and architecture, and discuss how interactions with cargoes and motors may be achieved.
The assembly and maintenance of all cilia and flagella require intraflagellar transport (IFT) along the axoneme. IFT has been implicated in sensory and motile ciliary functions, but the mechanisms of this relationship remain unclear. Here, we used Chlamydomonas flagellar surface motility (FSM) as a model to test whether IFT provides force for gliding of cells across solid surfaces. We show that IFT trains are coupled to flagellar membrane glycoproteins (FMGs) in a Ca(2+)-dependent manner. IFT trains transiently pause through surface adhesion of their FMG cargos, and dynein-1b motors pull the cell towards the distal tip of the axoneme. Each train is transported by at least four motors, with only one type of motor active at a time. Our results demonstrate the mechanism of Chlamydomonas gliding motility and suggest that IFT plays a major role in adhesion-induced ciliary signaling pathways. DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00744.001.
Cilia are motile and sensory organelles with critical roles in physiology. Ciliary defects can cause numerous human disease symptoms including polycystic kidneys, hydrocephalus, and retinal degeneration. Despite the importance of these organelles, their assembly and function is not fully understood. The unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii has many advantages as a model system for studies of ciliary assembly and function. Here we describe our initial efforts to build a chemical-biology toolkit to augment the genetic tools available for studying cilia in this organism, with the goal of being able to reversibly perturb ciliary function on a rapid time-scale compared to that available with traditional genetic methods. We screened a set of 5520 compounds from which we identified four candidate compounds with reproducible effects on flagella at nontoxic doses. Three of these compounds resulted in flagellar paralysis and one induced flagellar shortening in a reversible and dose-dependent fashion, accompanied by a reduction in the speed of intraflagellar transport. This latter compound also reduced the length of cilia in mammalian cells, hence we named the compound "ciliabrevin" due to its ability to shorten cilia. This compound also robustly and reversibly inhibited microtubule movement and retrograde actin flow in Drosophila S2 cells. Ciliabrevin may prove especially useful for the study of retrograde actin flow at the leading edge of cells, as it slows the retrograde flow in a tunable dose-dependent fashion until flow completely stops at high concentrations, and these effects are quickly reversed upon washout of the drug.
The eukaryotic flagellum is host to a variety of dynamic behaviors, including flagellar beating, the motility of glycoproteins in the flagellar membrane, and intraflagellar transport (IFT), the bidirectional traffic of protein particles between the flagellar base and tip. IFT is of particular interest, as it plays integral roles in flagellar length control, cell signaling, development, and human disease. However, our ability to understand dynamic flagellar processes such as IFT is limited in large part by the fidelity with which we can image these behaviors in living cells. This chapter introduces the application of total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy to visualize the flagella of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. The advantages and challenges of TIRF are discussed in comparison to confocal and differential interference contrast techniques. This chapter also reviews current IFT insights gleaned from TIRF microscopy of Chlamydomonas and provides an outlook on the future of the technique, with particular emphasis on combining TIRF with other emerging imaging technologies.
The assembly and maintenance of eukaryotic flagella are regulated by intraflagellar transport (IFT), the bidirectional traffic of IFT particles (recently renamed IFT trains) within the flagellum. We previously proposed the balance-point length control model, which predicted that the frequency of train transport should decrease as a function of flagellar length, thus modulating the length-dependent flagellar assembly rate. However, this model was challenged by the differential interference contrast microscopy observation that IFT frequency is length independent. Using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to quantify protein traffic during the regeneration of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii flagella, we determined that anterograde IFT trains in short flagella are composed of more kinesin-associated protein and IFT27 proteins than trains in long flagella. This length-dependent remodeling of train size is consistent with the kinetics of flagellar regeneration and supports a revised balance-point model of flagellar length control in which the size of anterograde IFT trains tunes the rate of flagellar assembly.
Cilia are organelles found on most eukaryotic cells, where they serve important functions in motility, sensory reception, and signaling. Recent advances in electron tomography have facilitated a number of ultrastructural studies of ciliary components that have significantly improved our knowledge of cilium architecture. These studies have produced nanometer-resolution structures of axonemal dynein complexes, microtubule doublets and triplets, basal bodies, radial spokes, and nexin complexes. In addition to these electron tomography studies, several recently published crystal structures provide insights into the architecture and mechanism of dynein as well as the centriolar protein SAS-6, important for establishing the 9-fold symmetry of centrioles. Ciliary assembly requires intraflagellar transport (IFT), a process that moves macromolecules between the tip of the cilium and the cell body. IFT relies on a large 20-subunit protein complex that is thought to mediate the contacts between ciliary motor and cargo proteins. Structural investigations of IFT complexes are starting to emerge, including the first three-dimensional models of IFT material in situ, revealing how IFT particles organize into larger train-like arrays, and the high-resolution structure of the IFT25/27 subcomplex. In this review, we cover recent advances in the structural and mechanistic understanding of ciliary components and IFT complexes.
The application of cryo-electron tomography to cells and tissues is commonly referred to as "cellular tomography," and enables visualization of the supramolecular architecture of cells in a near-native state. However, in order to access structural features hidden deep inside cellular volumes, it is necessary to use hybrid techniques to identify and localize features of interest and prepare such regions for subsequent analysis by transmission electron microscopy. We present a workflow that integrates different approaches: (1) correlative cryo-fluorescence microscopy to localize features within frozen-hydrated cells, (2) focused ion beam milling to thin these specimens in a targeted manner, and (3) cryo-electron tomography to provide detailed information about the cellular ultrastructure of thinned samples. We describe the combined use of these techniques and the instrumentation required to enable cryo-electron tomography for a vast range of cellular samples.
The maintenance of flagellar length is believed to require both anterograde and retrograde intraflagellar transport (IFT). However, it is difficult to uncouple the functions of retrograde transport from anterograde, as null mutants in dynein heavy chain 1b (DHC1b) have stumpy flagella, demonstrating solely that retrograde IFT is required for flagellar assembly. We isolated a Chlamydomonas reinhardtii mutant (dhc1b-3) with a temperature-sensitive defect in DHC1b, enabling inducible inhibition of retrograde IFT in full-length flagella. Although dhc1b-3 flagella at the nonpermissive temperature (34°C) showed a dramatic reduction of retrograde IFT, they remained nearly full-length for many hours. However, dhc1b-3 cells at 34°C had strong defects in flagellar assembly after cell division or pH shock. Furthermore, dhc1b-3 cells displayed altered phototaxis and flagellar beat. Thus, robust retrograde IFT is required for flagellar assembly and function but is dispensable for the maintenance of flagellar length. Proteomic analysis of dhc1b-3 flagella revealed distinct classes of proteins that change in abundance when retrograde IFT is inhibited.
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