In the human kidney, fluid destined to become urine flows across the upper (lumenal) surfaces of the cells that form the renal tubules. As shown above, the primary cilium extends from the cell surface into this urinary flow field. The primary cilium is therefore ideally positioned to monitor the composition and flow rate of the nascent urine. Our latest results show that it is also a potential site for the binding of particles suspended in the renal fluid, such as those involved in kidney stone formation (i.e., calcium oxalate microcrystals). However, it has yet to be shown that primary cilia play any role in kidney physiology or pathology. Our biomedical research program is designed to study this question.

Schartz, E.A., Leonard, M.L., Bizios, R., and Bowser, S.S. (1997) Analysis and modeling of the primary cilium bending
response to fluid shear. American Jounal of Physiology 272 (Renal Physiology 41): F132-F138.

Wheatley, D.N. (1997) "Essential" function(s) of the centriole: Questions. Cell Biology International 21:191-192.

Seen here is a videomicroscopic side-view of a cultured kidney epithelial cell. Notice the long primary cilium projecting from the apical cell surface. Most kidney epithelial cells express primary cilia, as do many other human cell types. Although primary cilia are nonmotile (i.e., they do not beat), surface-attached particles and ciliary swellings are transported along the cilium shaft. The mechanism and significance of this ciliary transport are poorly understood.

Method: PtK1 kidney cells (originally derived from a rat kangaroo) were cultured on a very thin, flexible substrate. The substrate was then folded in half, cell-side out, and mounted on a slide. A Nikon Optiphot microscope, equipped with modified Hoffman modulation-contrast optics and coupled to a Dage MTI 70 Newvicon video camera and Hamamatsu image procesor, was used to capture this image. The computer-enhanced image is magnified ~3,000x. For further details, see Roth, K.E., Rieder, C.L., & Bowser, S.S. (1988) J. Cell Science 89:457-466.

List of cells with primary cilia

Primary Cilium Bibliography (current through 7/99)

New: A more current version of the Bibliography is available at the Primary Cilium Resource Site.

Please contact me if you have questions about primary cilia or the contents of this site.

Information on these pages is compiled in collaboration with:

Prof. Denys Wheatley
Hilton College, MG7
Hilton Place
Aberdeen AB24 4FA, UK