How cells control organelle size is an elusive problem. Two predominant models for size control can be distinguished: (1) induced control, where organelle genesis, maintenance, and disassembly are three separate programs that are activated in response to size change, and (2) constitutive control, where stable size results from the balance between continuous organelle assembly and disassembly. The problem has been studied in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii because the flagella are easy to measure, their size changes only in the length dimension, and the genetics are comparable to yeast. Length dynamics in Chlamydomonas flagella are quite robust: they maintain a length of about 12 μm and recover from amputation in about 90 min with a growth rate that decreases smoothly to zero as the length approaches 12 μm. Despite a wealth of experimental studies, existing data are consistent with both induced and constitutive control models for flagella. Here we developed novel microfluidic trapping and laser microsurgery techniques in Chlamydomonas to distinguish between length control models by measuring the two flagella on a single cell as they equilibrate after amputation of a single flagellum. The results suggest that cells equalize flagellar length by constitutive control.
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