Send to

Choose Destination
Biosystems. 2019 Aug;182:42-51. doi: 10.1016/j.biosystems.2019.103981. Epub 2019 Jun 13.

How signals of calcium ions initiate the beats of cilia and flagella.

Author information

Faculty of Technical Sciences, University of Novi Sad, Novi Sad, Serbia.
Department of Physics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; DIMEAS, Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy.


Cilia and flagella are cell organelles serving basic roles in cellular motility. Ciliary movement is performed by a sweeping-like repeated bending motion, which gives rise to a self-propagating "ciliary beat". The hallmark structure in cilia is the axoneme, a stable architecture of microtubule doublets. The motion of axoneme is powered by the axonemal dynein motor family powered by ATP hydrolysis. It is still unclear how the organized beat of cilium and flagella emerges from the combined action of hundreds of dynein molecules. It has been hypothesized that such coordination is mediated by mechanical stress due to transverse, radial or sliding deformations. The beating asymmetry is crucial for airway ciliary function and it requires tubulin glutamination a unique posttranslational modification of C-termini of constituent microtubules that is highly abundant in cilia and flagella. The exact role of tubulin glutamination in ciliary or flagellar function is still unclear. In this paper we analyze the role of calcium (Ca2+) ions based on the experimental evidence that the flagellar asymmetry can be increased due to the entry of extracellular Ca2+ through, for example, the nimodipine-sensitive pathway located in the flagella. We propose a new scenario based on the polyelectrolyte properties of cellular microtubules (MTs) such that dynamic influx of Ca2+ ions provides the initiation and synchronization of dynein sliding along microtubules. We also point out the possible interplay between tubulin polyglutaminated C-termini and localized pulses of Ca2+ ions along microtubules.


Axoneme; Ca(2+) ions; Cilia; Flagella; Microtubule

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center