Characterization of primary cilia in human airway smooth muscle cells

Jun Wu, Hui Du, Xiangling Wang, Changlin Mei, Gary C. Sieck, Qi Qian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: Considerable evidence indicates a key role for primary cilia of mammalian cells in mechanochemical sensing. Dysfunctions of primary cilia have been linked to the pathogenesis of several human diseases. However, cilia-related research has been limited to a few cell and tissue types; to our knowledge, no literature exists on primary cilia in airway smooth muscle (ASM). The aim of this study was to characterize primary cilia in human ASM. Methods: Primary cilia of human bronchial smooth muscle cells (HBSMCs) were examined using immunofluorescence confocal microscopy, and scanning and transmission electron microscopy. HBSMC migration and injury repair were examined by scratch-wound and epidermal growth factor (EGF)-induced migration assays. Results: Cross-sectional images of normal human bronchi revealed that primary cilia of HBSMCs within each ASM bundle aggregated at the same horizontal level, forming a "cilium layer." Individual cilia of HBSMCs projected into extracellular matrix and exhibited varying degrees of deflection. Mechanochemical sensing molecules, polycystins, and α2-, α5-, and β1-integrins were enriched in cilia, as was EGF receptor, known to activate jointly with integrins during cell migration. Migration assays demonstrated a ciliary contribution to HBSMC migration and wound repair. Conclusions: The primary cilia of ASM cells exert a role in sensing and transducing extracellular mechanochemical signals and in ASM injury repair. Defects in ASM ciliary function could potentially affect airway wall maintenance and/or remodeling, possibly relating to the genesis of bronchiectasis in autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, a disease of ciliopathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-570
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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