Cilia, membrane-enclosed organelles protruding from the apical side of cells, can be divided into two classes: motile and primary cilia. During the past decades, motile cilia have been intensively studied. However, it was not until the 1990s that people began to realize the importance of primary cilia as cellular-specific sensors, particularly in kidney tubular epithelial cells. Furthermore, accumulating evidence indicates that primary cilia may be involved in the regulation of cell proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, and planar cell polarity. Many signaling pathways, such as Wnt, Notch, Hedgehog, and mammalian target of rapamycin, have been located to the primary cilia. Thus primary cilia have been regarded as a hub that integrates signals from the extracellular environment. More importantly, dysfunction of this organelle may contribute to the pathogenesis of a large spectrum of human genetic diseases, named ciliopathies. The significance of primary cilia in acquired human diseases such as hypertension and diabetes has gradually drawn attention. Interestingly, recent reports disclosed that cilia length varies during kidney injury, and shortening of cilia enhances the sensitivity of epithelial cells to injury cues. This review briefly summarizes the current status of cilia research and explores the potential mechanisms of cilia-length changes during kidney injury as well as provides some thoughts to allure more insightful ideas and promotes the further study of primary cilia in the context of kidney injury.


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