The long-term goals of my research are to understand the cellular and molecular properties of cilia/flagella that underlie their functions. My laboratory uses the biflagellated green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as a model system to study cilium-generated signaling and ciliary/flagellar shortening. During the Chlamydomonas mating reaction, adhesion receptors (agglutinins) on the flagella of minus gametes bind to their cognate agglutinins on the flagella of plus gametes, thereby activating a cilium-generated signaling pathway in both cells that activates the gametes for cell-cell fusion to form a zygote. Immediately after zygote formation (and also during experimentally-imposed stress), Chlamydomonas cells shorten and completely resorb their flagella. We propose to use Chlamydomonas to dissect novel functions and mechanisms of regulation of the intraflagellar transport (IFT) machinery. Because almost every mammalian cell possesses a primary cilium that is used for signal transduction and also must be resorbed during cell cycle entry, our studies will provide novel insights into fundamental cellular mechanisms essential for human development and homeostasis. In previous studies of flagellar adhesion-induced signaling, we had shown that a regulatory protein, a flagellar protein tyrosine kinase (PTK), was activated early in the pathway. Moreover, using mutant gametes conditionally defective in IFT, we presented evidence that IFT is required for signal transduction in an intact cilium/flagellum. In the current funding period we discovered that a second regulatory protein in the pathway, a cGMP-dependent protein kinase, becomes associated with large assemblies within flagella whose formation requires IFT. To our surprise, the large, newly formed assemblies also contain IFT particles. Here, in our studies on signaling, we propose experiments to test the model that, in addition to its roles in flagellar assembly and disassembly, the IFT machinery participates directly in cilium-generated signaling and links membrane receptor interactions to gamete activation. Our previous studies on flagellar shortening showed that an aurora-like protein kinase (CALK) was essential for regulated shortening. In the current funding period, we made the surprising discovery that IFT trafficking within flagella and cargo loading onto IFT particles in the cell body are regulated during shortening. Moreover, we found that a protein that disassembles microtubules, a depolymerizing kinesin, in the cell body is phosphorylated and transported into flagella as microtubule disassembly is triggered during shortening.
Our specific aims are to dissect the function of the intraflagellar transport machinery in flagellar adhesion-induced signaling, investigate the molecules that couple flagellar adhesion to gamete activation, and study the cellular and molecular mechanisms of flagellar shortening.

Public Health Relevance

Primary cilia carry out key signaling roles in development and homeostasis and they are resorbed before cell cycle entry. Yet, we know little about the cellular and molecular mechanisms of cilium-generated signaling or ciliary disassembly. Studying flagellar adhesion and flagellar shortening in Chlamydomonas will continue to uncover novel and fundamental properties of these remarkable organelles.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
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Cell Structure and Function (CSF)
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Gaillard, Shawn R
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University of Texas Sw Medical Center Dallas
Anatomy/Cell Biology
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Cao, Muqing; Ning, Jue; Hernandez-Lara, Carmen I et al. (2015) Uni-directional ciliary membrane protein trafficking by a cytoplasmic retrograde IFT motor and ciliary ectosome shedding. Elife 4:
Haubrich, Brad A; Collins, Emily K; Howard, Alicia L et al. (2015) Characterization, mutagenesis and mechanistic analysis of an ancient algal sterol C24-methyltransferase: Implications for understanding sterol evolution in the green lineage. Phytochemistry 113:64-72
Pan, Junmin; Snell, William J (2014) Organelle size: a cilium length signal regulates IFT cargo loading. Curr Biol 24:R75-8
Cao, Muqing; Meng, Dan; Wang, Liang et al. (2013) Activation loop phosphorylation of a protein kinase is a molecular marker of organelle size that dynamically reports flagellar length. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110:12337-42
Belzile, Olivier; Hernandez-Lara, Carmen I; Wang, Qian et al. (2013) Regulated membrane protein entry into flagella is facilitated by cytoplasmic microtubules and does not require IFT. Curr Biol 23:1460-5
Ning, Jue; Otto, Thomas D; Pfander, Claudia et al. (2013) Comparative genomics in Chlamydomonas and Plasmodium identifies an ancient nuclear envelope protein family essential for sexual reproduction in protists, fungi, plants, and vertebrates. Genes Dev 27:1198-215
Miller, Matthew B; Haubrich, Brad A; Wang, Qian et al. (2012) Evolutionarily conserved Delta(25(27))-olefin ergosterol biosynthesis pathway in the alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. J Lipid Res 53:1636-45
Luo, Minna; Cao, Muqing; Kan, Yinan et al. (2011) The phosphorylation state of an aurora-like kinase marks the length of growing flagella in Chlamydomonas. Curr Biol 21:586-91
Rohatgi, Rajat; Snell, William J (2010) The ciliary membrane. Curr Opin Cell Biol 22:541-6
Piao, Tian; Luo, Minna; Wang, Liang et al. (2009) A microtubule depolymerizing kinesin functions during both flagellar disassembly and flagellar assembly in Chlamydomonas. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106:4713-8

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