Nature communications

Mutations in TRAF3IP1/IFT54 reveal a new role for IFT proteins in microtubule stabilization.

PMID 26487268


Ciliopathies are a large group of clinically and genetically heterogeneous disorders caused by defects in primary cilia. Here we identified mutations in TRAF3IP1 (TNF Receptor-Associated Factor Interacting Protein 1) in eight patients from five families with nephronophthisis (NPH) and retinal degeneration, two of the most common manifestations of ciliopathies. TRAF3IP1 encodes IFT54, a subunit of the IFT-B complex required for ciliogenesis. The identified mutations result in mild ciliary defects in patients but also reveal an unexpected role of IFT54 as a negative regulator of microtubule stability via MAP4 (microtubule-associated protein 4). Microtubule defects are associated with altered epithelialization/polarity in renal cells and with pronephric cysts and microphthalmia in zebrafish embryos. Our findings highlight the regulation of cytoplasmic microtubule dynamics as a role of the IFT54 protein beyond the cilium, contributing to the development of NPH-related ciliopathies.