Cilia density and flow velocity affect alignment of motile cilia from brain cells

Nicola Pellicciotta, Debasish Das, Jurij Kotar, Marion Faucourt, Nathalie Spassky, Eric Lauga, Pietro Cicuta

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In many organs, thousands of microscopic ‘motile cilia’ beat in a coordinated fashion generating fluid flow. Physiologically, these flows are important in both development and homeostasis of ciliated tissues. Combining experiments and simulations, we studied how cilia from brain tissue align their beating direction. We subjected cilia to a broad range of shear stresses, similar to the fluid flow that cilia themselves generate, in a microfluidic setup. In contrast to previous studies, we found that cilia from mouse ependyma respond and align to these physiological shear stress at all maturation stages. Cilia align more easily earlier in maturation, and we correlated this property with the increase in multiciliated cell density during maturation. Our numerical simulations show that cilia in densely packed clusters are hydrodynamically screened from the external flow, in agreement with our experimental observation. Cilia carpets create a hydrodynamic screening that reduces the susceptibility of individual cilia to external flows.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)jeb229310
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2020


  • brain development
  • fluid flow
  • hydrodynamic forces


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