Comparative structural analysis of eukaryotic flagella and cilia from Chlamydomonas, Tetrahymena, and sea urchins

J Struct Biol. 2012 May;178(2):199-206. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2012.02.012. Epub 2012 Mar 3.


Although eukaryotic flagella and cilia all share the basic 9+2 microtubule-organization of their internal axonemes, and are capable of generating bending-motion, the waveforms, amplitudes, and velocities of the bending-motions are quite diverse. To explore the structural basis of this functional diversity of flagella and cilia, we here compare the axonemal structure of three different organisms with widely divergent bending-motions by electron cryo-tomography. We reconstruct the 3D structure of the axoneme of Tetrahymena cilia, and compare it with the axoneme of the flagellum of sea urchin sperm, as well as with the axoneme of Chlamydomonas flagella, which we analyzed previously. This comparative structural analysis defines the diversity of molecular architectures in these organisms, and forms the basis for future correlation with their different bending-motions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axoneme / ultrastructure
  • Chlamydomonas / ultrastructure*
  • Cilia / ultrastructure*
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • Electron Microscope Tomography
  • Flagella / ultrastructure*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Sea Urchins / ultrastructure*
  • Tetrahymena / ultrastructure*