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Curr Biol. 2004 Dec 14;14(23):2113-8.

Effects of imposed bending on microtubule sliding in sperm flagella.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, University of Tokyo, Hongo, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.


The movement of eukaryotic flagella is characterized by its oscillatory nature. In sea urchin sperm, for example, planar bends are formed in alternating directions at the base of the flagellum and travel toward the tip as continuous waves. The bending is caused by the orchestrated activity of dynein arms to induce patterned sliding between doublet microtubules of the flagellar axoneme. Although the mechanism regulating the dynein activity is unknown, previous studies have suggested that the flagellar bending itself is important in the feedback mechanism responsible for the oscillatory bending. If so, experimentally bending the microtubules would be expected to affect the sliding activity of dynein. Here we report on experiments with bundles of doublets obtained by inducing sliding in elastase-treated axonemes. Our results show that bending not only "switches" the dynein activity on and off but also affects the microtubule sliding velocity, thus supporting the idea that bending is involved in the self-regulatory mechanism underlying flagellar oscillation.

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