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Cell Biology International (2010) 34, 335–337 (Printed in Great Britain)
Another decade of advances in research on primary cilia, porosomes and neosis: some passing thoughts at 70
Denys N Wheatley1

This editorial contains some of my reflections on a career spanning almost 50 years in biomedical research at the cellular level and over 12 years as Editor-in-Chief of Cell Biology International, at the time of my 70th birthday. It is gratifying that I have been involved in some of the more important organelles and processes that have come to the forefront of cell research today, and I have chosen just three examples to illustrate this point.


Discovery of the porosome

It is pleasing to find that over the last decade and more, Cell Biology International has been the venue in which several important, and now fully recognized, organelles and cellular activities have been reported. In two recent reviews, Jena and co-workers (Potoff et al., 2008; Jena, 2009) gives us a full account of the porosome, which he discovered in the same year that I became Editor-in-Chief of Cell Biology International (Jeong et al., 1998) (see Table 1). This minute structure has been resolved in nanoscale detail, but of particular relevance are the backup studies that show how the organelle works in regulating the manner in which secretion from cells allows small amounts of exocytosed material to be released from each vesicle, not in ‘quantal amounts’ (i.e. whole vesicle emptying in one go, which was the received wisdom). Much of the work that substantiates this discovery and the physiological behaviour of the porosome has been published as primary research articles in Cell Biology International (Table 1).

Table 1 The porosome: tracing its discovery and elucidation of its function in Cell Biology International

Year of publication Reference
1998 Jeong et al., 1998
2000 Jena, 2000
2002 Cho et al., 2002a; Cho et al., 2002b
2004 Cho et al., 2004; Jeremic et al., 2004; Kelly et al., 2004
2007 Cho et al., 2007
2008 Potoff et al., 2008
2009 Cho et al., 2009
2010 Jena, 2010

Primary cilium: an early discovered organelle of great importance

We have also devoted a considerable number of pages for much more than a decade to primary cilia, one of my abiding interests since I first set eyes on a remarkable specimen in 1965 (reviewed in Wheatley, 2008a) (see Table 2). The primary cilium is an organelle that so many cell biologists suddenly (since ∼2000) ‘rediscovered’, despite investigations that have gone on for well over a century – much longer than for most other cell organelles (see the review by Bloodgood, 2010) (Table 2). It could not unequivocally be called a sensory organelle until Schwartz et al. (1997) and subsequently Praetorius and Spring (2001) (Table 2) established that it sent signals (Ca2+ transients) to the cell body in response to environmental changes (physical and later chemical). But the implication had always been there since the very first speculation of Zimmerman (Bloodgood, 2010, offers a highly informative discussion on this matter). In the interim, others – notably Poole and co-workers – made a very good case for a sensory function (see Table 2). But we now know that many primary cilia membranes respond to a vast range of external factors, which can be seen from the short reviews by Ong and Wheatley (2003) (relating to medicine), and by Satir et al. (2010) and others in more academic contexts (referenced in Table 2). The cilium is an antenna of such importance that its absence can lead to a plethora of disorders, some trivial and others grave. But, it occurred to me recently that many of the antennae we see around us these days in the world of telecommunications can have a dual role, both receiving and transmitting signals. Comparisons may be odious, but I decided it was worth taking this one step further.

Table 2 Some key references in the progress of primary cilium research

Year of publication Reference
1985 Poole et al., 1985
1995 Wheatley, 1995
1997 Schwartz et al., 1997
2001 Praetorius and Spring, 2001
2003 Ong and Wheatley, 2003
2007 Christensen and Ott, 2007
2008 Wheatley, 2008a
2010 Bloodgood, 2010; Satir et al., 2010

Receivers and transmitters

Now that it is generally accepted that primary cilia are complex signal-receiving organelles, their membranes studded with receptors of many different kinds sensing a wide variety of ligands that elicit responses in the cells through their second messenger pathways, could it be that they also act as transmitters (emitters), sending signals back out into their environments, perhaps even in response to signals that have come via the main cell body rather than the primary cilium itself? I am not aware of any evidence to support this idea, but I see no reason why they should not work both ways. These thoughts led me on further. I wondered whether these two organelles, the porosome and the primary cilium, have a closer connection. For example, are the membranes of primary cilia rich in porosomes, perhaps more so than on the rest of the cell membrane? It seemed to me that we might indeed have porosomes in primary cilia, perhaps in modified membrane patches, whereby they could emit (exocytose) signals back from them. Far-fetched, you may say, but today’s crazy notion often becomes tomorrow’s received wisdom. Since so many (most?) cell biologists had considered the primary cilium to be an unimportant ‘vestigial’ appendage, the notion that they have important functions must have appeared equally crazy. The dictum that I have frequently espoused that nothing a cell does should be seen as trivial or irrelevant has been adequately vindicated by the extent to which the pathobiology of disturbances of primary cilium formation and function has become one of the most highly researched organelles in the past 10–15 years, as presaged in Wheatley (1995) (see Table 2). This surge has not been driven so much by academic pursuit of knowledge, but because there have been so many instances in which the primary cilium is key to, or heavily involved in, the aetiology of a whole variety of medical conditions, from polycystic kidney disease to situs inversus.

Restitutive divisions and the regrowth of cancers

And finally in this editorial, written at the time of my 70th birthday, and after 12 years of being in charge of Cell Biology International, I would also like to ‘reflect’ on another seminal area of research that has gratifyingly opened up in its pages, in this case even more recently than the other two topics. This relates to the process that has been termed by some protagonists ‘neosis’ because of its relationship with mitosis and meiosis, but it has also been referred to as restitutive division (references in Table 3). The experts are neither entirely agreed on its name nor on the actual details of the process(es) that takes place, but in outline the following occurs. A cell (referring usually to a tumour cell) sometimes indulges in endoploidy, grows large and becomes relatively resistant to different forms of cytotoxic treatment on account of its ‘out-of-cycle’ status. These ‘giant cells’ often survive when diploid or quasi-diploid tumour cells around them are being destroyed by radiation or cytotoxic agents, in a situation that has been referred to as mitotic catastrophe. The received wisdom is that these giant cells are terminal and hence no longer pose a significant problem. But they can and do go undergo restitutive division, spawning in some cases quasi-diploid cells that repopulate a shrunken tumour, allowing it to regrow, and rendering it more resistant to subsequent therapeutic attacks. The reduction of polyploidy cells to diploid cells with full growth potential as a new population is widespread in nature, which makes it odd that this quite natural process has been overlooked in tumour biology. Is it another example, like the primary cilium, where the old literature and research work of stalwarts in the past will suddenly be rediscovered?

Table 3 ‘Restitutive division’ as a relatively new phenomeonon

Year of publication Reference
2000 Erenpreisa et al., 2000; Illidge et al., 2000
2005 Rajaraman et al., 2005
2006 Rajaraman et al., 2006
2008 Erenpreisa et al., 2008; Puig et al., 2008; Wheatley, 2008b
2009 Erenpreisa and Cragg, 2009

The emergence of ideas on neosis and repopulation of tumour (stem?) cells, and much of the evidence for the process (which is becoming too persuasive to ignore), can be found in the references given in Table 3, of which well over half of the most seminal and relevant ones have been published in Cell Biology International.

Concluding remarks

On these three counts and many others, the future of Cell Biology International looks bright and healthy. Submissions are six times higher per annum than when I took over in 1998. In the absence of a ‘cherry picking’ philosophy, rife in other high-flying cell biology journals, I believe it has quietly blazed trails that few other journals devoted to cell biology can match, and remains a major achievement of the International Federation for Cell Biology, of which it is the official Publication. In the hands of Portland Press Limited, it will undoubtedly continue to flourish.


Bloodgood, RA (2010) Sensory reception is an attribute of both primary and motile cilia. J Cell Sci 123, 505-9
Crossref   Medline   1st Citation   2nd   3rd  

Cho, SJ, Cho, J and Jena, BP (2002a) The number of secretory vesicles remains unchanged following exocytosis. Cell Biol Int 26, 29-33
Crossref   Medline   1st Citation  

Cho, SJ, Quinn, AS, Stromer, MH, Dash, S, Cho, J, Taatjes, DJ and Jena, BP (2002b) Structure and dynamics of the fusion pore in live cells. Cell Biol Int 26, 35-42
Crossref   Medline   1st Citation  

Cho, WJ, Jeremic, A, Rognlien, KT, Zhvania, MG, Lazrishvili, I, Tamar, B and Jena, BP (2004) Structure, isolation, composition and reconstitution of the neuronal fusion pore. Cell Biol Int 28, 699-708
Crossref   Medline   1st Citation  

Cho, WJ, Jeremic, A, Jin, H, Ren, G and Jena, BP (2007) Neuronal fusion pore assembly requires membrane cholesterol. Cell Biol Int 31, 1301-8
Crossref   Medline   1st Citation  

Cho, WJ, Ren, G, Lee, JS, Jeftinija, K, Jeftinija, S and Jena, BP (2009) Nanoscale 3-D contour map of protein assembly within the astrocyte porosome complex. Cell Biol Int 33, 224-9
Crossref   Medline   1st Citation  

Christensen, ST and Ott, CM (2007) A ciliary signalling switch. Science 317, 330-1
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Erenpreisa, J, Cragg, M, Fringes, B, Sharakov, I and Illdige, TM (2000) Release of mitotic descendants from giant cells from irradiated Burkitt's lymphoma cell line. Cell Biol Int 24, 635-48
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Erenpreisa, J and Cragg, MS (2009) Life cycle features of tumor cells. In Evolutionary Biology from Concept to Application (Pontarotti P, ed.), Springer, Berlin
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Erenpreisa, J, Ivanov, A, Wheatley, SP, Kosmacek, EA, Ianzini, F and Anisimov, SP (2008) Endoploidy in irradiated p53-deficient tumour cell lines: persistence of ‘mitotic’ activity in giant cells expressing aurora-B kinase. Cell Biol Int 32, 1044-56
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Illidge, TM, Cragg, M, Fringe, B, Olive, P and Erenpreisa, J (2000) Polyploid giant cells provide a survival mechanism for p53 mutant cells after DNA damage. Cell Biol Int 24, 621-33
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Jena, BP (2000) Insights on membrane fusion. Cell Biol Int 24, 769-71
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Jena, BP (2010) Secretory vesicles transiently dock and fuse at the porosome to discharge contents during cell secretion. Cell Biol Int 34, 3-12
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Jeong, EH, Webster, P, Khuong, CQ, Abdus Sattar, AK, Satchi, M and Jena, BP (1998) The native membrane fusion machinery in cells. Cell Biol Int 22, 657-70
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Jeremic, A, Kelly, M, Cho, JA, Cho, SJ, Horber, JK and Jena, BP (2004) Calcium drives fusion of SNARE-apposed bilayers. Cell Biol Int 28, 19-31
Crossref   Medline   1st Citation  

Kelly, ML, Cho, WJ, Jeremic, A, Abu-Hamdah, R and Jena, BP (2004) Vesicle swelling regulates content expulsion during secretion. Cell Biol Int 28, 709-16
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Ong, ACM and Wheatley, DN (2003) Polycystic kidney disease: the ciliary connection. Lancet 361, 774-6
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Poole, CA, Flint, MH and Beaumont, BW (1985) Analysis of the morphology and function of primary cilia in connective tissue: a cellular cybernetic probe? Cell Motil 5, 175-93
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Potoff, JJ, Issa, Z, Manke, CW Jr and Jena, BP (2008) Ca2+-dimethylphosphate complex formation: providing insight into Ca2+-mediated local dehydration and membrane fusion in cells. Cell Biol Int 32, 361-6
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Praetorius, JJ and Spring, KR (2001) Bending of the MDCK cell primary cilium increases intracellular calcium. J Membr Biol 184, 71-9
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Puig, P-E, Guilly, M-N, Bouchot, A, Drom, N, Cathelien, D and Bouyer, F (2008) Tumour cells can escape DNA-damaging cisplatin through DNA endoreduplication and reversible polyploidy. Cell Biol Int 32, 1031-43
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Rajaraman, R, Rajaraman, MM, Rajaraman, SR and Guernsey, DL (2005) Neosis: a paradigm of self-renewal in cancer. Cell Biol Int 29, 1084-97
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Satir, P, Pedersen, LB and Christensen, SJ (2010) The primary cilium at a glance. J Cell Sci 123, 499-503
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Schwartz, EA, Leonard, ML, Bizios, R and Bowser, SS (1997) Analysis and modelling of the primary cilium bending response to fluid shear. Am J Physiol 272, F132-8
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Wheatley, DN (1995) Pathobiology of primary cilia. Pathobiology 63, 222-38
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Wheatley, DN (2008a) Nanobiology of the primary cilium: a paradigm of a multifunctional nanomachine complex. Methods Cell Biol 90, 139-56
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Wheatley, DN (2008b) Growing evidence for the repopulation of regressed tumours by the division of giant cells. Cell Biol Int 32, 1029-30
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Received 16 February 2010; accepted 19 February 2010

Published online 8 March 2010, doi:10.1042/CBI20100119

© 2010 The Author(s) Journal compilation © 2010 Portland Press Ltd

ISSN Print: 1065-6995
ISSN Electronic: 1095-8355
Published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the International Federation for Cell Biology (IFCB)