Within the approximate range of 30–80 Hz, the flagellar beat frequency of a sea urchin sperm held by its head in the tip of a micropipet is governed by the vibration frequency of the micropipet. We have imposed abrupt changes in flagellar beat frequency by changing the vibration frequency of the micropipet within this range and used a high-speed video system to analyze the flagellar wave parameters during the first few cycles following the change. Our results demonstrate that the various flagellar beat parameters differ in the time they take to adjust to the new conditions. The initiation rate of new bends at the base is directly governed by the frequency of the vibration and changes immediately to the new frequency. The length and the propagation velocity of the developed bends become adjusted to the new conditions within approximately 1 beat cycle, whereas the bend angles take more than 4 beat cycles to attain their new steady-state value. Bends initiated shortly before the change in frequency occurs attain a final length and angle that depends on the relative durations of growth at the old and new frequencies. Our results suggest that the flagellar wavelength and bend angle are regulated by different mechanisms with the second not being directly dependent on bend initiation.

This content is only available via PDF.