The euglenoid flagellates are able to change their shape rapidly in response to a variety of stimuli, or sometimes spontaneously. Two extremes of shape can be identified: the “relaxed” form is cylindrical; the contracted form is a somewhat distorted disc. These 2 forms can be interconverted by treatments that alter the Ca2+ concentration of the entire cell. The level of Ca2+ is believed to be normally controlled by a system of calcium-accumulating membranes, identified in Astasia longa by the technique of calcium oxalate precipitation. The system forms a set of parallel tubes of endoplasmic reticulum, one of which lies immediately below each of the ridges of the pellicle. The individual ridges, each with its associated reticulum, microtubules and other elements are suggested to be independent motor units. Local activation of a small number of these units by Ca2+ is made possible by the arrangement of Ca2+ -sequestering reticulum, producing the characteristic squirming euglenoid movement. Uniform activation or suppression of all units produces the 2 extremes of shape. The pellicle of A. longa with its associated microtubules has been purified and shown to contain a Ca2+ -binding site and ATPase activity.

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