Immune synapses are formed between immune cells to facilitate communication and coordinate the immune response. The reorganization of receptors involved in recognition and signaling creates a transient area of plasma membrane specialized in signaling and polarized secretion. Studies on the formation of the immune synapse between cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) and their targets uncovered a critical role for centrosome polarization in CTL function and suggested a striking parallel between the synapse and primary cilium. Since these initial observations, a plethora of further morphological, functional, and molecular similarities have been identified between these two fascinating structures. In this review, we describe how advances in imaging and molecular techniques have revealed additional parallels as well as functionally significant differences and discuss how comparative studies continue to shed light on the molecular mechanisms underlying the functions of both the immune synapse and primary cilium.

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