Bilateral symmetry during vertebrate development is broken at the left-right organizer (LRO) by ciliary motility and the resultant directional flow of extracellular fluid. However, how ciliary motility is perceived and transduced into asymmetrical intracellular signaling at the LRO remains controversial. Previous work has indicated that sensory cilia and polycystin-2 (Pkd2), a cation channel, are required for sensing ciliary motility, yet their function and the molecular mechanism linking both to left-right signaling cascades is unknown.
Here, we report novel intraciliary calcium oscillations (ICOs) at the LRO that connect ciliary sensation of ciliary motility to downstream left-right signaling. Utilizing cilia-targeted genetically-encoded calcium indicators in live zebrafish embryos, we show that ICOs depend on Pkd2 and are left-biased at the LRO in response to ciliary motility. Asymmetric ICOs occur with onset of LRO ciliary motility, thus representing the earliest known LR asymmetric molecular signal. Suppression of ICOs using a cilia-targeted calcium sink demonstrates that they are essential for LR development.