The eukaryotic flagellum is a highly conserved organelle serving motility, sensory, and transport functions. Although genetic, genomic, and proteomic studies have led to the identification of hundreds of flagellar and putative flagellar proteins, precisely how these proteins function individually and collectively to drive flagellum motility and other functions remains to be determined. In this chapter we provide an overview of tools and approaches available for studying flagellum protein function in the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei. We begin by outlining techniques for in vitro cultivation of both T. brucei life cycle stages, as well as transfection protocols for the delivery of DNA constructs. We then describe specific assays used to assess flagellum function including flagellum preparation and quantitative motility assays. We conclude the chapter with a description of molecular genetic approaches for manipulating gene function. In summary, the availability of potent molecular tools, as well as the health and economic relevance of T. brucei as a pathogen, combine to make the parasite an attractive and integral experimental system for the functional analysis of flagellar proteins.
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