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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e25700. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025700. Epub 2012 Jan 3.

Three-dimensional structure of the Trypanosome flagellum suggests that the paraflagellar rod functions as a biomechanical spring.

Author information

1
Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America.

Abstract

Flagellum motility is critical for normal human development and for transmission of pathogenic protozoa that cause tremendous human suffering worldwide. Biophysical principles underlying motility of eukaryotic flagella are conserved from protists to vertebrates. However, individual cells exhibit diverse waveforms that depend on cell-specific elaborations on basic flagellum architecture. Trypanosoma brucei is a uniflagellated protozoan parasite that causes African sleeping sickness. The T. brucei flagellum is comprised of a 9+2 axoneme and an extra-axonemal paraflagellar rod (PFR), but the three-dimensional (3D) arrangement of the underlying structural units is poorly defined. Here, we use dual-axis electron tomography to determine the 3D architecture of the T. brucei flagellum. We define the T. brucei axonemal repeating unit. We observe direct connections between the PFR and axonemal dyneins, suggesting a mechanism by which mechanochemical signals may be transmitted from the PFR to axonemal dyneins. We find that the PFR itself is comprised of overlapping laths organized into distinct zones that are connected through twisting elements at the zonal interfaces. The overall structure has an underlying 57 nm repeating unit. Biomechanical properties inferred from PFR structure lead us to propose that the PFR functions as a biomechanical spring that may store and transmit energy derived from axonemal beating. These findings provide insight into the structural foundations that underlie the distinctive flagellar waveform that is a hallmark of T. brucei cell motility.

PMID:
22235240
PMCID:
PMC3250385
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0025700
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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