Cilia and flagella are ideal model organelles in which to study the general question of organelle size control. Flagellar microtubules are steady-state structures whose size is set by the balance of assembly and disassembly. Assembly requires intraflagellar transport (IFT), and measurements of IFT have shown that the rate of entry of IFT particles into the flagellum is a decreasing function of length. It has been proposed that this length dependence of IFT may be the basis for flagellar length control. Here, we test this idea by showing that three different long-flagella mutations in Chlamydomonas all cause increased IFT injection, thus confirming that IFT can influence length control. However, quantitative comparisons with mathematical models suggest that the increase in injection is not sufficient to explain the full increase in length seen in these mutants; hence, some other mechanism may be at work. One alternative mechanism that has been proposed is length-regulated binding of tubulin to the IFT particles. However, we find that the apparent length dependence of tubulin loading that has previously been reported may actually reflect length-dependent organization of IFT trains. This article is part of the Theo Murphy meeting issue 'Unity and diversity of cilia in locomotion and transport'.
Keywords: Chlamydomonas; intraflagellar transport; organelle size control.