Noise and synchronization in pairs of beating eukaryotic flagella

Phys Rev Lett. 2009 Oct 16;103(16):168103. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.103.168103. Epub 2009 Oct 16.


It has long been conjectured that hydrodynamic interactions between beating eukaryotic flagella underlie their ubiquitous forms of synchronization; yet there has been no experimental test of this connection. The biflagellate alga Chlamydomonas is a simple model for such studies, as its two flagella are representative of those most commonly found in eukaryotes. Using micromanipulation and high-speed imaging, we show that the flagella of a C. reinhardtii cell present periods of synchronization interrupted by phase slips. The dynamics of slips and the statistics of phase-locked intervals are consistent with a low-dimensional stochastic model of hydrodynamically coupled oscillators, with a noise amplitude set by the intrinsic fluctuations of single flagellar beats.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chlamydomonas / physiology
  • Eukaryota / physiology*
  • Flagella / physiology*
  • Noise*
  • Oscillometry
  • Periodicity*