SV4 Figure3a carteria from Synchrony and symmetry-breaking in active flagellar coordination
mediaposted on 23.12.2019 by Kirsty Y. Wan
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Living creatures exhibit a remarkable diversity of locomotion mechanisms, evolving structures specialized for interacting with their environment. In the vast majority of cases, locomotor behaviours such as flying, crawling and running are orchestrated by nervous systems. Surprisingly, microorganisms can enact analogous movement gaits for swimming using multiple, fast-moving cellular protrusions called cilia and flagella. Here, I demonstrate intermittency, reversible rhythmogenesis and gait mechanosensitivity in algal flagella, to reveal the active nature of locomotor patterning. In addition to maintaining free-swimming gaits, I show that the algal flagellar apparatus functions as a central pattern generator that encodes the beating of each flagellum in a network in a distinguishable manner. The latter provides a novel symmetry-breaking mechanism for cell reorientation. These findings imply that the capacity to generate and coordinate complex locomotor patterns does not require neural circuitry but rather the minimal ingredients are present in simple unicellular organisms.This article is part of the Theo Murphy meeting ‘Unity and diversity of ciliary systems in locomotion and transport’.