Making sense of cilia in disease: The human ciliopathies


  • How to cite this article: Baker K, Beales PL. 2009. Making sense of cilia in disease: The human ciliopathies. Am J Med Genet Part C Semin Med Genet 151C:281–295.


Ubiquitous in nature, cilia and flagella comprise nearly identical structures with similar functions. The most obvious example of the latter is motility: driving movement of the organism or particle flow across the epithelial surface in fixed structures. In vertebrates, such motile cilia are evident in the respiratory epithelia, ependyma, and oviducts. For over a century, non-motile cilia have been observed on the surface of most vertebrate cells but until recently their function has eluded us. Gathering evidence now points to critical roles for the mono-cilium in sensing the extracellular environment, and perturbation of this function gives rise to a predictable panoply of clinical problems. We review the common clinical phenotypes associated with ciliopathies and interrogate Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) to compile a comprehensive list of putative disorders in which ciliary dysfunction may play a role. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.