Alcohol-induced ciliary dysfunction targets the outer dynein arm

Fan Yang, Jacqueline Pavlik, Laura Fox, Chasity Scarbrough, Winfield S. Sale, Joseph H. Sisson, Maureen Wirschell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Alcohol abuse results in an increased incidence of pulmonary infection, in part attributable to impaired mucociliary clearance. Analysis of motility in mammalian airway cilia has revealed that alcohol impacts the ciliary dynein motors by a mechanism involving altered axonemal protein phosphorylation. Given the highly conserved nature of cilia, it is likely that the mechanisms for alcohol-induced ciliary dysfunction (AICD) are conserved. Thus we utilized the experimental advantages offered by the model organism, Chlamydomonas, to determine the precise effects of alcohol on ciliary dynein activity and identify axonemal phosphoproteins that are altered by alcohol exposure. Analysis of live cells or reactivated cell models showed that alcohol significantly inhibits ciliary motility in Chlamydomonas via a mechanism that is part of the axonemal structure. Taking advantage of informative mutant cells, we found that alcohol impacts the activity of the outer dynein arm. Consistent with this finding, alcohol exposure results in a significant reduction in ciliary beat frequency, a parameter of ciliary movement that requires normal outer dynein arm function. Using mutants that lack specific heavy-chain motor domains, we have determined that alcohol impacts the β- and ɣ-heavy chains of the outer dynein arm. Furthermore, using a phospho-threonine-specific antibody, we determined that the phosphorylation state of DCC1 of the outer dynein arm-docking complex is altered in the presence of alcohol, and its phosphorylation correlates with AICD. These results demonstrate that alcohol targets specific outer dynein arm components and suggest that DCC1 is part of an alcohol-sensitive mechanism that controls outer dynein arm activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L569-L576
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2015


  • Alcohol
  • Cilia
  • Dynein
  • Ethanol


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