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Keywords:

  • flagella;
  • Chlamydomonas;
  • motility;
  • flagellar reversal

Abstract

Using a uniflagellate mutant of Chlamydomonas and flash photomicrography at 300 Hz, we have obtained detailed information on the forward and reverse beating modes of Chlamydomonas flagella and on the relationship between rotation of the uniflagellate cell and the bending cycle of the forward mode. Flagella ranging in length from 5 to 15.5 μm were photographed. There is a decrease in wavelength and an increase in curvature in the principal bends when the length of the flagellum is less than the normal length of 12–13 μm, but these changes are not sufficient to maintain similarity of the bending pattern. In the reverse mode, the flagellum propagates symmetrical, planar, undulatory waves with a shear amplitude which is the same as in the forward mode: there is a 19% increase in beat frequency and a similar decrease in wave length. The reorientation of the flagellar beat direction towards the axis of the cell in the reverse mode is caused both by the decrease in asymmetry of beat and by activation of sliding in the principal bends at an earlier time in the beat cycle, relative to the time of activation of sliding in reverse bends. There are additional rare modes of beating which may be related to intermediate stages in the transition between forward and reverse beating modes.