The control of flagellar activity in the biflagellate green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii was investigated by the in vitro reactivation of the isolated flagellar apparatus (the 2 flagella attached to their respective basal bodies plus accessory structures). The waveform and beat frequency of the isolated apparatus in the presence of 1 mM adenosine triphophate (ATP) were comparable to those recorded for living cells. Equimolar concentrations of adenosine diphosphate (ADP) could be substituted for ATP with little change in beat frequency and no apparent change in waveform, suggesting that the latter is converted to ATP by axonemal adenylate kinase. No reactivation occurred in adenosine monophosphate (AMP). But frequencies in cytidine, guanosine and uridine triphosphates (CTP, GTP and UTP) were approximately 10% that obtained in ATP. Reactivation was optimal over a broad pH range between pH 6.4 and pH 8.9 in both APT and ADP. Isolated flagellar apparatus could be induced to change from forward to reverse motion in vitro by manipulation of exogenous calcium ions. The 2 types of motion were directly comparable to recorded responses of living cells. Forward swimming occurred at levels of calcium below 10(−6)M, the isolated apparatus changing to backward motion above this level. Motility was inhibited at concentrations above 10(−3)M. The threshold for reversal of motion by calcium was lowered to 10(−7)M when the flagellar membranes were solubilized with detergent, indicating that the flagellar membranes are involved in the regulaion of the level of calcium within the axoneme. The reversal of motion by calcium was itself freely reversible. The relationship of these observations to the known tactic responses of Chlamydomonas is discussed.

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