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The Primary Cilium as the Cell's Antenna: Signaling at a Sensory Organelle

This article discusses emerging evidence showing that primary cilia are key participants in intercellular signaling. Almost every vertebrate cell has a specialized cell surface projection called a primary cilium. Although these structures were first described more than a century ago, the full scope of their functions remains poorly understood. Here, we review emerging evidence that in addition to their well-established roles in sight, smell, and mechanosensation, primary cilia are key participants in intercellular signaling. This new appreciation of primary cilia as cellular antennae that sense a wide variety of signals could help explain why ciliary defects underlie such a wide range of human disorders, including retinal degeneration, polycystic kidney disease, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, and neural tube defects.

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