The effects of cilium length on the dynamics of cilia motion were investigated by high-speed video microscopy of uniciliated mutants of the swimming alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Cells with short cilia were obtained by deciliating cells via pH shock and allowing cilia to reassemble for limited times. The frequency of cilia beating was estimated from the motion of the cell body and of the cilium. Key features of the ciliary waveform were quantified from polynomial curves fitted to the cilium in each image frame. Most notably, periodic beating did not emerge until the cilium reached a critical length between 2 and 4 μm. Surprisingly, in cells that exhibited periodic beating, the frequency of beating was similar for all lengths with only a slight decrease in frequency as length increased from 4 μm to the normal length of 10–12 μm. The waveform average curvature (rad/μm) was also conserved as the cilium grew. The mechanical metrics of ciliary propulsion (force, torque, and power) all increased in proportion to length. The mechanical efficiency of beating appeared to be maximal at the normal wild-type length of 10–12 μm. These quantitative features of ciliary behavior illuminate the biophysics of cilia motion and, in future studies, may help distinguish competing hypotheses of the underlying mechanism of oscillation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1292-1304
Number of pages13
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2 2019


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