A versatile and quantitative computer-assisted photoelectronic technique used for the analysis of ciliary beat cycles

Cell Motil. 1985;5(4):267-92. doi: 10.1002/cm.970050402.


The beat cycles of rabbit tracheal cilia in culture and Mytilus laterofrontal cirri were recorded using a phototransistor, transillumination, video, and phase-contrast microscopy. The photoelectronic signal and video image of the ciliary activity were simultaneously recorded as a composite image. The photoelectronic signal was converted into a digital signal by a data acquisition system for further computer processing. By the selection of a small detector area and accurate detector alignment, a simple, repetitive photoelectronic signal representing ciliary activity was obtained. This signal records the ciliary beat frequency and demonstrates the triphasic nature of the beat cycle. The photoelectronic signal can be precisely correlated with the ciliary activity by analysis of the composite video recordings to provide the duration of the effective, recovery, and rest phases of the beat cycle. The video-photoelectronic signal correlations were verified by high-speed cinematography. High-speed films of ciliary activity were digitized, and the image density of selected pixels was analyzed by computer with respect to time and ciliary motion. These studies indicate that duration of the phases of the beat cycle are differentially reduced with increased beat frequency; the effective phase duration was quickly reduced to a minimum. This was followed by the reduction of the duration of the recovery phase to a minimum. The rest phase continues to be reduced without reaching a minimum, over the range of beat frequencies observed. These results suggest that ciliary beat frequency may be regulated either by modifying the rates of dynein-microtubule interactions or the rate of transition from one beat phase to the next.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bivalvia
  • Cell Movement
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cilia / physiology
  • Computers
  • Gills / cytology*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Photometry / instrumentation
  • Rabbits
  • Time Factors
  • Trachea / cytology*