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J Cell Biol. 1994 Jun;125(5):1127-35.

Visualization of calcium transients controlling orientation of ciliary beat.

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  • 1Boston University Marine Program, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543.


To image changes in intraciliary Ca controlling ciliary motility, we microinjected Ca Green dextran, a visible wavelength fluorescent Ca indicator, into eggs or two cell stages of the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi. The embryos developed normally into free-swimming, approximately 0.5 mm cydippid larvae with cells and ciliary comb plates (approximately 100 microns long) loaded with the dye. Comb plates of larvae, like those of adult ctenophores, undergo spontaneous or electrically stimulated reversal of beat direction, triggered by Ca influx through voltage-sensitive Ca channels. Comb plates of larvae loaded with Ca Green dextran emit spontaneous or electrically stimulated fluorescent flashes along the entire length of their cilia, correlated with ciliary reversal. Fluorescence intensity peaks rapidly (34-50 ms), then slowly falls to resting level in approximately 1 s. Electrically stimulated Ca Green emissions often increase in steps to a maximum value near the end of the stimulus pulse train, and slowly decline in 1-2 s. In both spontaneous and electrically stimulated flashes, measurements at multiple sites along a single comb plate show that Ca Green fluorescence rises within 17 ms (1 video field) and to a similar relative extent above resting level from base to tip of the cilia. The decline of fluorescence intensity also begins simultaneously and proceeds at similar rates along the ciliary length. Ca-free sea water reversibly abolishes spontaneous and electrically stimulated Ca Green ciliary emissions as well as reversed beating. Calculations of Ca diffusion from the ciliary base show that Ca must enter the comb plate along the entire length of the ciliary membranes. The voltage-dependent Ca channels mediating changes in beat direction are therefore distributed over the length of the comb plate cilia. The observed rapid and virtually instantaneous Ca signal throughout the intraciliary space may be necessary for reprogramming the pattern of dynein activity responsible for reorientation of the ciliary beat cycle.

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