Sensory cilia act as a specialized venue for regulated extracellular vesicle biogenesis and signaling

Juan Wang, Inna A. Nikonorova, Malan Silva, Jonathon D. Walsh, Peter E. Tilton, Amanda Gu, Jyothi S. Akella, Maureen M. Barr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Ciliary extracellular vesicle (EV) shedding is evolutionarily conserved. In Chlamydomonas and C. elegans, ciliary EVs act as signaling devices.1–3 In cultured mammalian cells, ciliary EVs regulate ciliary disposal but also receptor abundance and signaling, ciliary length, and ciliary membrane dynamics.4–7 Mammalian cilia produce EVs from the tip and along the ciliary membrane.8,9 This study aimed to determine the functional significance of shedding at distinct locations and to explore ciliary EV biogenesis mechanisms. Using Airyscan super-resolution imaging in living C. elegans animals, we find that neuronal sensory cilia shed TRP polycystin-2 channel PKD-2::GFP-carrying EVs from two distinct sites: the ciliary tip and the ciliary base. Ciliary tip shedding requires distal ciliary enrichment of PKD-2 by the myristoylated coiled-coil protein CIL-7. Kinesin-3 KLP-6 and intraflagellar transport (IFT) kinesin-2 motors are also required for ciliary tip EV shedding. A big unanswered question in the EV field is how cells sort EV cargo. Here, we show that two EV cargoes— CIL-7 and PKD-2—localized and trafficked differently along cilia and were sorted to different environmentally released EVs. In response to mating partners, C. elegans males modulate EV cargo composition by increasing the ratio of PKD-2 to CIL-7 EVs. Overall, our study indicates that the cilium and its trafficking machinery act as a specialized venue for regulated EV biogenesis and signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3943-3951.e3
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 13 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • C. elegans
  • cilia
  • ectosomes
  • exosomes
  • extracellular vesicles
  • kinesin-2
  • kinesin-3
  • myristoylation
  • polycystin
  • super-resolution microscopy


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