The primary cilium is a cellular compartment specialized for receipt of extracellular signals that is essential for development and homeostasis. Although intraciliary responses to engagement of ciliary receptors are well studied, fundamental questions remain about the mechanisms and molecules that transduce ciliary signals into responses in the cytoplasm. During fertilization in the bi-ciliated alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, ciliary adhesion between plus and minus gametes triggers an immediate ∼10-fold increase in cellular cAMP and consequent responses in the cytoplasm required for cell–cell fusion. Here, we identify a new participant in ciliary signaling, Gamete-Specific Protein Kinase (GSPK). GSPK is essential for the adhesion-induced cAMP increase and for rapid gamete fusion. The protein is in the cytoplasm, and the entire cellular complement responds to a signal from the cilium by becoming phosphorylated within 1 min after ciliary receptor engagement. Unlike all other cytoplasmic events in ciliary signaling, GSPK phosphorylation is not responsive to exogenously added cAMP. Thus, during ciliary signaling in Chlamydomonas, a cytoplasmic protein is required to rapidly interpret a still uncharacterized ciliary signal to generate a cytoplasmic response.

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