The flagellum of trypanosomes

Int Rev Cytol. 2005;244:227-85. doi: 10.1016/S0074-7696(05)44006-1.


Eukaryotic cilia and flagella are cytoskeletal organelles that are remarkably conserved from protists to mammals. Their basic unit is the axoneme, a well-defined cylindrical structure composed of microtubules and up to 250 associated proteins. These complex organelles are assembled by a dynamic process called intraflagellar transport. Flagella and cilia perform diverse motility and sensitivity functions in many different organisms. Trypanosomes are flagellated protozoa, responsible for various tropical diseases such as sleeping sickness and Chagas disease. In this review, we first describe general knowledge on the flagellum: its occurrence in the living world, its molecular composition, and its mode of assembly, with special emphasis on the exciting developments that followed the discovery of intraflagellar transport. We then present recent progress regarding the characteristics of the trypanosome flagellum, highlighting the original contributions brought by this organism. The most striking phenomenon is the involvement of the flagellum in several aspects of the trypanosome cell cycle, including cell morphogenesis, basal body migration, and cytokinesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cilia / physiology
  • Cilia / ultrastructure
  • Flagella / physiology*
  • Flagella / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Trypanosoma / cytology*
  • Trypanosoma / physiology*
  • Trypanosoma / ultrastructure