Copyright

Cilia in Cells: Definition, Functions & Structure

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Human Skin: Layers, Function & Structure

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 What Are Cilia?
  • 1:09 How Do Cilia Function?
  • 1:43 Cilia Structure
  • 2:07 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Cilia have a cool name, but what are they? What do they do? Complete this lesson to find out what your cilia are up to and why you should be impressed with their hard work!

What Are Cilia?

Cilia are little appendages that stick out from eukaryotic cells. They whip back and forth and help cells move around in cellular fluids. They also help particles move past the cell. You might think of them like the paddles on the outside of a canoe; they help to push the boat through the water and also keep seaweed away.

Unlike real paddles, though, cilia are really tiny—only about 0.1 millimeters long. The term 'cilia' refers to a group of these appendages, whereas only one or two of them would be called flagella. Cilia are present on almost all of the cells in your body.

Cilia can be grouped into two categories. First, there are motile cilia, which are always moving in a single direction. They help the cell move around in the cellular fluids and help move fluids past the cell. Motile cilia are found together on cells and coordinate their movements to be most effective, making up for their small size.

The second type of cilia is non-motile cilia, and these are responsible for sensing the surrounding environment. They are also called primary cilia. Whereas motile cilia are found in groups on cells, each cell usually has just one non-motile cilium.

How Do Cilia Function?

Cilia are composed of smaller protein pieces called tubulin and are connected to the cell by the basal body. These tubulin pieces are manufactured in the cell and then transported to the surface. When motile cilia work together to move molecules and liquids past the cells, it is called intraflagellar transport.

If cilia are not functioning properly, this affects intraflagellar transport and is especially problematic in areas like the eyes, which need photoreceptors to work properly. Malfunctioning cilia conditions are called ciliopathies, but underlying causes are still being researched.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support