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How cells' sensing hairs are made

Body cells detect signals that control their behavior through tiny hairs on the cell surface called cilia. Serious diseases and disorders can result when these cilia do not work properly. New research from UC Davis published this week in the journal Nature Cell Biology provides new insights into how these cilia are assembled.

"It's a basic discovery, but with implications for understanding disease," said Jonathan Scholey, professor of molecular and cellular biology at UC Davis and senior author of the study. Understanding how cilia are assembled and function can help scientists understand how conditions such as polycystic kidney disease and some growth and development disorders arise.

Cilia are built from bundles of microtubules made of a protein called tubulin. Scholey's team discovered how two subunits of tubulin are winched into place by a type of protein motor belonging to a family of proteins called kinesins.

Scholey's laboratory works with the soil roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, whose cilia are essentially the same as those of humans and other mammals. Postdoctoral scholar Limin Hao, Scholey and their colleagues screened a collection of worms for those with mutations that affected the cilia.

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