Cell Biology

Beat It

Science Signaling  01 Sep 2009:
Vol. 2, Issue 86, pp. ec291
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.286ec291

Primary cilia are specialized organelles that serve important sensory functions in many different tissues and cells, and defects in their structure and function underlie a variety of genetic diseases. In contrast to primary cilia, motile cilia serve a mechanical function. For example, the cilia on airway epithelia remove inhaled material from the lung. Shah et al. (see the Perspective by Kinnamon and Reynolds) now show that these classic motile cilia are also chemosensory. The motile cilia on airway epithelia contain bitter-taste receptors and their associated signaling machinery. Moreover, application of bitter substances triggers an elevation of intracellular Ca2+ levels and increases cilia beat frequency. Thus, in airway epithelia, bitter-taste receptors may be able to detect noxious substances entering the airways and initiate an autonomous defensive mechanism designed to accelerate elimination of the offending compound.

A. S. Shah, Y. Ben-Shahar, T. O. Moninger, J. N. Kline, M. J. Welsh, Motile cilia of human airway epithelia are chemosensory. Science 325, 1131–1134 (2009). [Abstract] [Full Text]

S. C. Kinnamon, S. D. Reynolds, Using taste to clear the air(ways). Science 325, 1081–1082 (2009). [Summary] [Full Text]