• primary cilium;
  • stimulated emission depletion;
  • adenylyl cyclase type III;
  • intraflagellar transport;
  • IFT88


The primary cilium is an organelle that serves as a signaling center of the cell and is involved in the cAMP, Wnt, and hedgehog signaling pathways. Adenylyl cyclase type III (ACIII) is enriched in primary cilia and acts as a marker that is involved in cAMP signaling, while also playing an important role in regulating ciliogenesis and sensory functions. Ciliary function relies on the transportation of molecules between the primary cilium and the cell, which is facilitated by intraflagellar transport (IFT). The detailed localization and interactions of these important proteins remain unclear due to the limited resolution of conventional microscopy. We conducted superresolution imaging of immunostained ACIII and IFT88 in human fibroblasts using stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy. Instead of a homogeneous distribution along a primary cilium, our STED images revealed that ACIII formed a periodic punctate pattern with a roughly equal spacing between groups of puncta. Superresolution imaging of IFT88, an important protein of the IFT complexes, demonstrated two novel distinct distribution patterns at the basal end: a triangle of three puncta with similar fluorescence intensities, and a Y-shaped configuration of a bright punctum connected to two branches. We also performed STED imaging of IFT88 in mouse inner medullary collecting duct cells and mouse embryonic fibroblasts. The similar three-puncta and Y-shape patterns were observed in these cells, suggesting that these distribution patterns are common among primary cilia of different cell types. Our results demonstrate the ability of superresolution STED microscopy to reveal novel structural characteristics in primary cilia. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc