Cilia are conserved organelles found in many cell types in eukaryotes, and their dysfunction causes defects in environmental sensing and signaling transduction; such defects are termed ciliopathies. Distinct cilia have cell-specific morphologies and exert distinct functions. However, the underlying mechanisms of cell-specific ciliogenesis and regulation are unclear. Here, we identified a WD40-repeat (WDR) protein, NMTN-1 (the homolog of mammalian WDR47), and show that it is specifically required for ciliogenesis of AWB chemosensory neurons in C. elegans. NMTN-1 is expressed in the AWB chemosensory neuron pair, and is enriched at the basal body (BB) of the AWB cilia. Knockout of nmtn-1 causes abnormal AWB neuron cilia morphology, structural integrity, and induces aberrant AWB-mediated aversive behaviors. We further demonstrate that nmtn-1 deletion affects movement of intraflagellar transport (IFT) particles and their cargo delivery in AWB neurons. Our results indicate that NMTN-1 is essential for AWB neuron ciliary morphology and function, which reveal a novel mechanism for cell-specific ciliogenesis. Given that WDR47/NMTN-1 is conserved in mammals, our findings may help understanding of the process of cell-specific ciliogenesis and provide insights for treating ciliopathies.

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