Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jan 22;110(4):1187-92. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1210548110. Epub 2013 Jan 7.

Ciliary contact interactions dominate surface scattering of swimming eukaryotes.

Author information

  • 1Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Centre for Mathematical Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0WA, United Kingdom.


Interactions between swimming cells and surfaces are essential to many microbiological processes, from bacterial biofilm formation to human fertilization. However, despite their fundamental importance, relatively little is known about the physical mechanisms that govern the scattering of flagellated or ciliated cells from solid surfaces. A more detailed understanding of these interactions promises not only new biological insights into structure and dynamics of flagella and cilia but may also lead to new microfluidic techniques for controlling cell motility and microbial locomotion, with potential applications ranging from diagnostic tools to therapeutic protein synthesis and photosynthetic biofuel production. Due to fundamental differences in physiology and swimming strategies, it is an open question of whether microfluidic transport and rectification schemes that have recently been demonstrated for pusher-type microswimmers such as bacteria and sperm cells, can be transferred to puller-type algae and other motile eukaryotes, because it is not known whether long-range hydrodynamic or short-range mechanical forces dominate the surface interactions of these microorganisms. Here, using high-speed microscopic imaging, we present direct experimental evidence that the surface scattering of both mammalian sperm cells and unicellular green algae is primarily governed by direct ciliary contact interactions. Building on this insight, we predict and experimentally verify the existence of optimal microfluidic ratchets that maximize rectification of initially uniform Chlamydomonas reinhardtii suspensions. Because mechano-elastic properties of cilia are conserved across eukaryotic species, we expect that our results apply to a wide range of swimming microorganisms.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk