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Exp Cell Res. 1993 Sep;208(1):148-53.

Mechanisms of flagellar excision. I. The role of intracellular acidification.

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Department of Physiology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30322.


It has previously been shown that exposure of Chlamydomonas to low pH induces the cells to shed their flagella. In the present paper we report that a 30-s treatment with 20 mM acetic, carbonic, formic, or benzoic acid at pH 4.0 will induce flagellar excision. In contrast, 20 mM concentrations of the stronger aspartic, phosphoric, citric, and tartaric acids (pH 4) do not induce excision. Further, the excision efficacy of acetate is a function of the concentration of protonated acetate. Thus, excision correlates with the presence of a protonated, membrane-permeant species of acid. Relative to acetate, the more permeant benzoate induces excision at a much lower concentration of protonated acid. We conclude that a flux of acid into the cell is the signal for excision. Previous work has shown that detergent-permeabilized cells excise their flagella in response to calcium but not in response to low pH. This suggests that the acidification of intact cells triggers excision by stimulating an increase in intracellular calcium. We have previously reported that the source of this calcium might be IP3-sensitive. In our model for the mechanism of pH-induced flagellar excision, a flux of acid into the cell activates phospholipase C, leading to IP3 production, the activation of an IP3-gated calcium channel (located on either an intracellular or surface membrane), and an increase in cytosolic calcium, which is the trigger of flagellar excision.

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