Mammalian cilia are ubiquitous appendages found on the apical surface of cells. Primary and motile cilia are distinct in both morphology and function. Most cells have a solitary primary cilium (9+0), which lacks the central microtubule doublet characteristic of motile cilia (9+2). The immotile primary cilia house unique signaling components and sequester several important transcription factors. In contrast, motile cilia commonly extend into the lumen of respiratory airways, fallopian tubes, and brain ventricles to move their contents and/or produce gradients. In this review, we focus on the composition of putative ion channels found in both types of cilia and in the periciliary membrane and discuss their proposed functions. Our discussion does not cover specialized cilia in photoreceptor or olfactory cells, which express many more ion channels.
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