Splayed Tetrahymena cilia: A system for analyzing sliding and axonemal spoke arrangements

Winfield S. Sale, Peter Satir

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37 Scopus citations


This study makes use of a procedure designed to illustrate, without serial section analysis, the three-dimensional changes in the ciliary axoneme produced by microtubule sliding, and to confirm essential features of the sliding microtubule hypothesis of ciliary movement. Cilia, isolated from Tetrahymena pyriformis by the dibucaine procedure, are attached to a polylysine substratum, and treated with Triton X-100. Critical point drying maintains three-dimensional structure without embedding. The detergent removes the membrane and many axonemes unroll, always in an organized fashion so that doublets follow one another in sequence, according to the enantiomorphic form of the cilium. The central pair of microtuo bules fall to the side as a unit. The parallel doublet microtubules retain relative longitudinal positions in part by interdoublet or nexin links. Spoke organization and tip patterns are preserved in the opened axonemes. We generalize the work of Warner and Satir (Warner, F. D., and P. Satir, 1976. J. Cell Biol. 63:35-63) to show that spoke group arrangements are maintained for all doublets in straight regions, while systematic displacements occur in bent regions. The conclusion that local contraction of microtubles is absent in the axoneme is strengthened, and direct graphic demonstrations of sliding at the ciliary tip are shown. A morphogenetic numbering scheme is presented which results in a quantitative fit of the tip images to the images predicted by the equation for doublet sliding, and which makes possible new comparisons of structural parameters between axonemes and with cilia of other organisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)589-605
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1 1976
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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