Abstract Motile cilia and flagella are organelles, which function in cell motility and in the transport of fluids over the surface of cells. Motility defects often result in a rare human disease, primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD). Cell motility depends on axonemal dynein, a molecular motor that drives the beating of cilia and flagella. The dyneins are composed of multiple subunits, which are thought to be preassembled in the cytoplasm before they are transported into cilia and flagella. Axonemal dyneins have been extensively studied in Chlamydomonas. In addition, analyses of human PCDs over the past decade, together with studies in other model animals, have identified the conserved components required for dynein assembly. Recently also, the first cytoplasmic component of dynein assembly, kintoun (ktu), was elucidated through the analysis of a medaka mutant in combination with human genetics and cell biology and biochemical studies of Chlamydomonas. The components of dynein and the proteins involved in its cytoplasmic assembly process are discussed.