Three members of the MCB department are co-authors on an article recently published in the journal Nature. Senior author Assistant Professor Lin He, together with Assistant Professor Polina Lishko and Professor Richard Harland, describe a new role for non-coding RNAs in formation of cilia.
Cilia are motile, whip-like structures that protrude from cells and move fluid across the surface of a tissue, for example sweeping mucus and dirt out of the lungs, and driving movement of an egg from the ovary to the uterus. Many cilia growing from a single cell move in a coordinated fashion, but the regulation of their assembly is poorly understood. Not surprisingly, defects in cilia structure and function are associated with human diseases including primary cilia dyskinesia (PCD), a disorder with a variety of symptoms including recurrent airway infections, chronic sinusitis, infertility, hydrocephaly, and defects in left-right asymmetry of organs. He, Lishko, Harland and colleagues demonstrate that a highly conserved family of micro-RNAs that regulate gene expression are crucial for cilia formation in mice and frogs. Mice deficient inthese micro-RNAs exhibit pathologies similar to a subset of PCD patients. This work by a team of MCB colleagues reveals a new regulatory pathway for cilia formation that has important implications for human disease.