Motile cilia are characterized by dynein motor units, which preassemble in the cytoplasm before trafficking into the cilia. Proteins required for dynein preassembly were discovered by finding human mutations that result in absent ciliary motors, but little is known about their expression, function, or interactions. By monitoring ciliogenesis in primary airway epithelial cells and MCIDAS-regulated induced pluripotent stem cells, we uncovered two phases of expression of preassembly proteins. An early phase, composed of HEATR2, SPAG1, and DNAAF2, preceded other preassembly proteins and was independent of MCIDAS regulation. The early preassembly proteins colocalized within perinuclear foci that also contained dynein arm proteins. These proteins also interacted based on immunoprecipitation and Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) studies. FRET analysis of HEAT domain deletions and human mutations showed that HEATR2 interacted with itself and SPAG1 at multiple HEAT domains, while DNAAF2 interacted with SPAG1. Human mutations in HEATR2 did not affect this interaction, but triggered the formation of p62/Sequestosome-1-positive aggregates containing the early preassembly proteins, suggesting that degradation of an early preassembly complex is responsible for disease and pointing to key regions required for HEATR2 scaffold stability. We speculate that HEATR2 is an early scaffold for the initiation of dynein complex assembly in motile cilia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1221-E1228
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 6 2018


  • Cilia
  • Ciliopathy
  • Genetics
  • Preassembly
  • Primary ciliary dyskinesia


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