Direction of flagellum beat propagation is controlled by proximal/distal outer dynein arm asymmetry
Edwards BFL., Wheeler RJ., Barker AR., Moreira-Leite FF., Gull K., Sunter JD.
<jats:p>The 9 + 2 axoneme structure of the motile flagellum/cilium is an iconic, apparently symmetrical cellular structure. Recently, asymmetries along the length of motile flagella have been identified in a number of organisms, typically in the inner and outer dynein arms. Flagellum-beat waveforms are adapted for different functions. They may start either near the flagellar tip or near its base and may be symmetrical or asymmetrical. We hypothesized that proximal/distal asymmetry in the molecular composition of the axoneme may control the site of waveform initiation and the direction of waveform propagation. The unicellular eukaryotic pathogens <jats:italic>Trypanosoma brucei</jats:italic> and <jats:italic>Leishmania mexicana</jats:italic> often switch between tip-to-base and base-to-tip waveforms, making them ideal for analysis of this phenomenon. We show here that the proximal and distal portions of the flagellum contain distinct outer dynein arm docking-complex heterodimers. This proximal/distal asymmetry is produced and maintained through growth by a concentration gradient of the proximal docking complex, generated by intraflagellar transport. Furthermore, this asymmetry is involved in regulating whether a tip-to-base or base-to-tip beat occurs, which is linked to a calcium-dependent switch. Our data show that the mechanism for generating proximal/distal flagellar asymmetry can control waveform initiation and propagation direction.</jats:p>