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Primary cilia are singular, cytoskeletal organelles present in the majority of mammalian cell types where they function as coordinating centres for mechanotransduction, Wnt and hedgehog signalling. The length of the primary cilium is proposed to modulate cilia function, governed in part by the activity of intraflagellar transport (IFT). In articular cartilage, primary cilia length is increased and hedgehog signaling activated in osteoarthritis (OA). Here, we examine primary cilia length with exposure to the quintessential inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1), which is up-regulated in OA. We then test the hypothesis that the cilium is involved in mediating the downstream inflammatory response. Primary chondrocytes treated with IL-1 exhibited a 50% increase in cilia length after 3 h exposure. IL-1-induced cilia elongation was also observed in human fibroblasts. In chondrocytes, this elongation occurred via a protein kinase A (PKA)-dependent mechanism. G-protein coupled adenylate cyclase also regulated the length of chondrocyte primary cilia but not downstream of IL-1. Chondrocytes treated with IL-1 exhibit a characteristic increase in the release of the inflammatory chemokines, nitric oxide and prostaglandin E2. However, in cells with a mutation in IFT88 whereby the cilia structure is lost, this response to IL-1 was significantly attenuated and, in the case of nitric oxide, completely abolished. Inhibition of IL-1-induced cilia elongation by PKA inhibition also attenuated the chemokine response. These results suggest that cilia assembly regulates the response to inflammatory cytokines. Therefore, the cilia proteome may provide a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of inflammatory pathologies, including OA.

Original publication




Journal article


Cell mol life sci

Publication Date





2967 - 2977


Animals, Cattle, Cells, Cultured, Chondrocytes, Cilia, Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases, Dinoprostone, Fibroblasts, Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Humans, Inflammation, Interleukin-1beta, Nitric Oxide, Signal Transduction, Tumor Suppressor Proteins