CRISPR–Cas9-induced mutations in intraflagellar transport (IFT) motors reveal that IFT-specific dynein and cytoplasmic dynein have unique compositions but share components and regulatory mechanisms.
Cilium formation and maintenance require intraflagellar transport (IFT). Although much is known about kinesin-2–driven anterograde IFT, the composition and regulation of retrograde IFT-specific dynein remain elusive. Components of cytoplasmic dynein may participate in IFT; however, their essential roles in cell division preclude functional studies in postmitotic cilia. Here, we report that inducible expression of the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)–Cas9 system in Caenorhabditis elegans generated conditional mutations in IFT motors and particles, recapitulating ciliary defects in their null mutants. Using this method to bypass the embryonic requirement, we show the following: the dynein intermediate chain, light chain LC8, and lissencephaly-1 regulate retrograde IFT; the dynein light intermediate chain functions in dendrites and indirectly contributes to ciliogenesis; and the Tctex and Roadblock light chains are dispensable for cilium assembly. Furthermore, we demonstrate that these components undergo biphasic IFT with distinct transport frequencies and turnaround behaviors. Together, our results suggest that IFT–dynein and cytoplasmic dynein have unique compositions but also share components and regulatory mechanisms.