Reactivation of flagellar motility in demembranated Leishmania reveals role of cAMP in flagellar wave reversal to ciliary waveform

Sci Rep. 2016 Nov 16:6:37308. doi: 10.1038/srep37308.


The flagellum of parasitic trypanosomes is a multifunctional appendage essential for its viability and infectivity. However, the biological mechanisms that make the flagellum so dynamic remains unexplored. No method is available to access and induce axonemal motility at will to decipher motility regulation in trypanosomes. For the first time we report the development of a detergent-extracted/demembranated ATP-reactivated model for studying flagellar motility in Leishmania. Flagellar beat parameters of reactivated parasites were similar to live ones. Using this model we discovered that cAMP (both exogenous and endogenous) induced flagellar wave reversal to a ciliary waveform in reactivated parasites via cAMP-dependent protein kinase A. The effect was reversible and highly specific. Such an effect of cAMP on the flagellar waveform has never been observed before in any organism. Flagellar wave reversal allows parasites to change direction of swimming. Our findings suggest a possible cAMP-dependent mechanism by which Leishmania responds to its surrounding microenvironment, necessary for its survival. Our demembranated-reactivated model not only serves as an important tool for functional studies of flagellated eukaryotic parasites but has the potential to understand ciliary motility regulation with possible implication on human ciliopathies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Axoneme / drug effects
  • Axoneme / physiology*
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism*
  • Cyclic AMP / pharmacology
  • Flagella / drug effects
  • Flagella / physiology*
  • Flagella / ultrastructure
  • Leishmania donovani / metabolism
  • Leishmania donovani / physiology*
  • Leishmania donovani / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Movement / drug effects
  • Movement / physiology
  • Time-Lapse Imaging / methods


  • Cyclic AMP