Fibrous Flagellar Hairs of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii Do Not Enhance Swimming

Guillermo J. Amador, Da Wei, Daniel Tam*, Marie Eve Aubin-Tam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
51 Downloads (Pure)


The flagella of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii possess fibrous ultrastructures of a nanometer-scale thickness known as mastigonemes. These structures have been widely hypothesized to enhance flagellar thrust; however, detailed hydrodynamic analysis supporting this claim is lacking. In this study, we present a comprehensive investigation into the hydrodynamic effects of mastigonemes using a genetically modified mutant lacking the fibrous structures. Through high-speed observations of freely swimming cells, we found the average and maximum swimming speeds to be unaffected by the presence of mastigonemes. In addition to swimming speeds, no significant difference was found for flagellar gait kinematics. After our observations of swimming kinematics, we present direct measurements of the hydrodynamic forces generated by flagella with and without mastigonemes. These measurements were conducted using optical tweezers, which enabled high temporal and spatial resolution of hydrodynamic forces. Through our measurements, we found no significant difference in propulsive flows due to the presence of mastigonemes. Direct comparison between measurements and fluid mechanical modeling revealed that swimming hydrodynamics were accurately captured without including mastigonemes on the modeled swimmer's flagella. Therefore, mastigonemes do not appear to increase the flagella's effective area while swimming, as previously thought. Our results refute the longstanding claim that mastigonemes enhance flagellar thrust in C. reinhardtii, and so, their function still remains enigmatic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2914–2925
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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  • LEaDing Fellows

    Gutierrez, A., Dols Perez, A., Bae, D., Sahoo, H., Wang, W., Lam, K. L., Raimondo, A., Steffelbauer, D. B., Lesne, E. L., Ragno, E., Amador, G. J., Šiaudinyte, L., Sand, M., Robinson Garcia, N., Abil, Z., Purkarthofer, E., Noardo, F., Tasić, J. K., Marin, L., Angeloni, L., loddo, M., Stockill, R. H. J., Franklin, S. W., Hensen, B. J., Dennis, M. J., Afroza Islam, S. T., Kim, T., Manzaneque Garcia, T., Tiringer, U., Marques Penha, F., Esteban Jurado, C., Timmermans, E., McCrum, I. T., Pool, F., Forn-Cuní, G., Will, G., Barrett, H. E., Everett, J. A. C., Kostenzer, J., Luksenburg, J., Hirvasniemi, J., Desai, J., Ruibal, P., Albury, N. J., March, R., Eichengreen, A., Muok, A. R., Cochrane, A., Ravesteijn, B., Riumalló Herl, C. J., Meeusen, C., Biaggi, C., Granger, C., Cecil, C., Fosch Villaronga, E., Sánchez López, E. S., Loehrer, E., da Costa Gonçalves, F., Giardina, F., Wu, H., Gleitz, H. & Khatri, I.


    Project: Research

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