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Keywords:

  • primary cilia;
  • connective tissues;
  • secretory organelles;
  • extracellular matrix;
  • cybernetic probe

Abstract

More than 300 primary cilia have been identified electronmicroscopically in a variety of embryonic and mature connective tissue cells. To further define the enigmatic function of these cilia, we examined the interrelationships between the basal apparatus and cytoplasmic organelles and the ciliary shaft and the extracellular matrix. The basal diplosome was consistently associated with the secretory organelles including the maturing face of the Golgi complex, Golgi vacuoles and vesicles, the microtubular network, the plasma membrane, and coated pits and vesicles. Small vesicles and amorphous granules were also observed within the ciliary lumen and adjacent to the ciliary membrane. Microtubule-membrane bridges linked axonemal tubules to the ciliary membrane. The position, projection, and orientation of the axoneme were influenced by the structural organisation and mechanical properties of the matrix and frequently caused angulation of the ciliary shaft relative to the basal body. Located midway between the secretory apparatus and the extracellular matrix, primary cilia would appear ideally situated to mediate the necessry interaction between the cell and its surrounding environment prerequisite to the formation and maintenance of a functionally effective matrix. We propose that primary cilia in connective tissue cells could act as multifunctional, cellular cybernetic probes, receiving, transducing, and conducting a variety of extrinsic stimuli to the intracellular organelles responsible for effecting the appropriate homeostatic feedback response to changes in the extracellular microenvironment.