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Motile and non-motile cilia are associated with mutually-exclusive genetic disorders. Motile cilia propel sperm or extracellular fluids, and their dysfunction causes primary ciliary dyskinesia. Non-motile cilia serve as sensory/signalling antennae on most cell types, and their disruption causes single-organ ciliopathies such as retinopathies or multi-system syndromes. CFAP20 is a ciliopathy candidate known to modulate motile cilia in unicellular eukaryotes. We demonstrate that in zebrafish, cfap20 is required for motile cilia function, and in C. elegans, CFAP-20 maintains the structural integrity of non-motile cilia inner junctions, influencing sensory-dependent signalling and development. Human patients and zebrafish with CFAP20 mutations both exhibit retinal dystrophy. Hence, CFAP20 functions within a structural/functional hub centered on the inner junction that is shared between motile and non-motile cilia, and is distinct from other ciliopathy-associated domains or macromolecular complexes. Our findings suggest an uncharacterised pathomechanism for retinal dystrophy, and potentially for motile and non-motile ciliopathies in general.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Male, Animals, Humans, Cilia, Zebrafish, Caenorhabditis elegans, Semen, Ciliopathies, Proteins, Retinal Dystrophies