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J Struct Biol. 2012 May;178(2):189-98. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2012.01.009. Epub 2012 Jan 25.

Cryo-electron tomography and 3-D analysis of the intact flagellum in Trypanosoma brucei.

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  • 1The Boulder Laboratory for 3-D Electron Microscopy of Cells, MCD-Biology, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309-0347, USA.


Trypanosoma brucei is a uni-cellular protist that causes African sleeping sickness. These parasites have a flagellum that is attached to the cell body and is indispensible for its motility. The flagellum consists of a canonical 9+2 axoneme and a paraflagellar rod (PFR), an intricate tripartite, fibrous structure that is connected to the axoneme. In this paper we describe results from cryo-electron tomography of unperturbed flagella. This method revealed novel structures that are likely involved in attaching the flagellum to the cell. We also show the first cryo-electron tomographic images of a basal body in situ, revealing electron dense structures inside its triplet microtubules. Sub-tomogram averaging of the PFR revealed that its distal region is organized as an orthorhombic crystal.

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