The formation and function of cilia involves the movement of intraflagellar transport (IFT) particles underneath the ciliary membrane, along axonemal microtubules. Although this process has been studied extensively, its molecular basis remains incompletely understood. For example, it is unknown how the IFT particle interacts with transmembrane proteins. To study the IFT particle further, we examined elipsa, a locus characterized by mutations that cause particularly early ciliogenesis defects in zebrafish. We show here that elipsa encodes a coiled-coil polypeptide that localizes to cilia. Elipsa protein binds to Ift20, a component of IFT particles, and Elipsa homologue in Caenorhabditis elegans, DYF-11, translocates in sensory cilia, similarly to the IFT particle. This indicates that Elipsa is an IFT particle polypeptide. In the context of zebrafish embryogenesis, Elipsa interacts genetically with Rabaptin5, a well-studied regulator of endocytosis, which in turn interacts with Rab8, a small GTPase, known to localize to cilia. We show that Rabaptin5 binds to both Elipsa and Rab8, suggesting that these proteins provide a bridging mechanism between the IFT particle and protein complexes that assemble at the ciliary membrane.
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