A role for the membrane in regulating Chlamydomonas flagellar length

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53366. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053366. Epub 2013 Jan 24.


Flagellar assembly requires coordination between the assembly of axonemal proteins and the assembly of the flagellar membrane and membrane proteins. Fully grown steady-state Chlamydomonas flagella release flagellar vesicles from their tips and failure to resupply membrane should affect flagellar length. To study vesicle release, plasma and flagellar membrane surface proteins were vectorially pulse-labeled and flagella and vesicles were analyzed for biotinylated proteins. Based on the quantity of biotinylated proteins in purified vesicles, steady-state flagella appeared to shed a minimum of 16% of their surface membrane per hour, equivalent to a complete flagellar membrane being released every 6 hrs or less. Brefeldin-A destroyed Chlamydomonas Golgi, inhibited the secretory pathway, inhibited flagellar regeneration, and induced full-length flagella to disassemble within 6 hrs, consistent with flagellar disassembly being induced by a failure to resupply membrane. In contrast to membrane lipids, a pool of biotinylatable membrane proteins was identified that was sufficient to resupply flagella as they released vesicles for 6 hrs in the absence of protein synthesis and to support one and nearly two regenerations of flagella following amputation. These studies reveal the importance of the secretory pathway to assemble and maintain full-length flagella.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Chlamydomonas / metabolism
  • Chlamydomonas / physiology*
  • Flagella*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism


  • Membrane Proteins