Cilia and Flagella- Definition, Structure, Functions and Diagram
Cilia and flagella are specialized structures that enable cells to move or transport fluids and particles. They are found in many eukaryotic organisms, such as protists, animals and some plants, but not in prokaryotes. They are composed of microtubules arranged in a characteristic 9+2 pattern, surrounded by a membrane that is continuous with the plasma membrane. Cilia and flagella have a common origin from the basal body, which is derived from the centriole.
Cilia and flagella differ in their number, length and mode of movement. Flagella are usually longer and fewer than cilia, and they propel the cell by generating waves along their length. Cilia are shorter and more numerous than flagella, and they move the cell or the surrounding fluid by generating a coordinated beating pattern. Flagella can be found in cells such as sperm and algae, while cilia can be seen in cells such as paramecia and epithelia.
Cilia and flagella have various functions depending on their location and type. Some cilia and flagella are motile, meaning they can generate movement, while others are non-motile, meaning they act as sensory or signaling structures. Motile cilia and flagella can be involved in locomotion, feeding, reproduction, excretion and defense. Non-motile cilia and flagella can be involved in sensing light, chemicals, sound, fluid flow and mechanical stimuli.
Cilia and flagella are fascinating examples of cellular complexity and diversity. They have evolved to perform different tasks in different environments, but they share a common structural design and molecular machinery. They are also important for human health and disease, as defects in cilia and flagella can cause disorders such as primary ciliary dyskinesia, polycystic kidney disease, Bardet-Biedl syndrome and infertility.
In this article, we will explore the definition, structure, functions and diagram of cilia and flagella in more detail.
Cilia and flagella are complex filamentous cytoplasmic structures that protrude through the cell membrane and are involved in various cellular functions, such as movement, sensing and signaling. They are composed of a core bundle of microtubules called the axoneme, which is surrounded by a membrane that is continuous with the plasma membrane. The axoneme has a characteristic arrangement of nine pairs of microtubules (called doublets) surrounding two central singlet microtubules, forming a 9 + 2 pattern. The doublets are connected by protein bridges called nexin links and have projections called dynein arms that can slide along adjacent doublets. The central singlets are connected to the doublets by protein spokes called radial spokes. The axoneme is anchored to the cell by a cylindrical structure called the basal body, which is derived from a centriole and has a similar 9 + 0 pattern of microtubules.
Cilia and flagella differ in their number, length, distribution and mode of movement. Cilia are usually shorter (<10 μm) and more numerous (hundreds or thousands per cell) than flagella (>40 μm) and are typically found on the surface of epithelial cells. Flagella are usually longer and fewer (one or a few per cell) than cilia and are typically found on sperm cells and some unicellular organisms. Cilia move in a coordinated back-and-forth motion, like oars, while flagella move in a wavelike motion, like whips. Cilia can move entire cells (such as paramecia) or substances along the outer surface of the cell (such as mucus in the respiratory tract), while flagella can move entire cells (such as spermatozoa) or propel fluids around the cell (such as in the flagellated chambers of sponges).
Cilia and flagella can be classified into two types: motile and non-motile. Motile cilia and flagella are capable of generating force and movement by using the energy from ATP hydrolysis to power the sliding of dynein arms along the microtubules. Non-motile cilia and flagella are not involved in movement but act as sensory organelles that detect signals from the environment or other cells. Non-motile cilia have a different structure from motile cilia and flagella, as they lack the central pair of microtubules and have different proteins associated with them.
Cilia and flagella are found in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, but they have different origins and structures. Prokaryotic cilia and flagella (also called pili and fimbriae) are made of protein subunits called pilins or flagellins that assemble into helical filaments that extend from the cell wall. Prokaryotic cilia and flagella are driven by a rotary motor at their base that uses the proton gradient across the membrane to rotate the filament. Eukaryotic cilia and flagella are made of tubulin subunits that polymerize into microtubules that form the axoneme. Eukaryotic cilia and flagella are driven by a sliding mechanism along the axoneme that uses ATP hydrolysis to power the dynein arms.
Cilia and flagella are both cell organelles that are involved in cell movement and sensory functions. However, they have some distinct differences based on their structure, size, number, and function. Here are some of the main differences between cilia and flagella:
- Structure: Cilia and flagella have a similar structure, consisting of a membrane-bound bundle of microtubules called the axoneme, which is connected to a basal body that anchors the organelle to the cell. However, cilia and flagella differ in the arrangement of their microtubules. Cilia have a 9+2 pattern, meaning they have nine pairs of microtubules surrounding two central singlets. Flagella have different patterns depending on their origin. Eukaryotic flagella have the same 9+2 pattern as cilia, but prokaryotic flagella have a simpler structure with a single helical filament made of the protein flagellin .
- Size: Cilia are usually shorter than flagella, typically ranging from 0.5 to 10 micrometers in length. Flagella are usually longer than cilia, ranging from 10 to 200 micrometers in length. The length of cilia and flagella affects their beating pattern and efficiency of movement.
- Number: Cilia are usually present in large numbers on the cell surface, sometimes covering the entire cell or forming specialized structures such as ciliary bands or plates . Flagella are usually present in fewer numbers, often one or two per cell, although some cells may have more . The number of cilia and flagella affects their coordination and function.
- Function: Cilia and flagella have different functions depending on their location and type. Cilia can be classified into motile and non-motile types. Motile cilia are involved in moving the cell or substances along the cell surface, such as mucus, fluid, or particles . Non-motile cilia are involved in sensing signals from the environment or other cells, such as light, chemicals, or mechanical stimuli . Flagella can also be classified into eukaryotic and prokaryotic types. Eukaryotic flagella are involved in moving the cell through fluid environments, such as sperm cells or protists . Prokaryotic flagella are involved in moving the cell through various media, as well as attaching to surfaces or hosts .
These are some of the major differences between cilia and flagella. Both organelles play important roles in cellular biology and physiology.
Cilia and flagella are complex filamentous cytoplasmic structures that protrude through the cell membrane and are involved in cell movement and sensory functions. They have a similar structure, but differ in their length, number, and pattern of movement. Cilia are shorter and more numerous than flagella, and they move with a coordinated back-and-forth motion. Flagella are longer and usually present in one or a few per cell, and they move with a whip-like motion.
The diagram below shows the structure of cilia and flagella in eukaryotic cells . Both cilia and flagella consist of:
- Axoneme: The core structure that contains a bundle of microtubules arranged in a 9 + 2 pattern. This means that there are nine pairs of microtubules (called doublets) surrounding two single microtubules (called singlets) in the center. The microtubules are made of tubulin protein subunits and have polarity, meaning that they have a plus end and a minus end. The plus end is oriented toward the tip of the cilium or flagellum, while the minus end is anchored to the basal body.
- Basal body: The base structure that connects the axoneme to the cell membrane and acts as a microtubule-organizing center. It is derived from a centriole, which is a cylindrical structure composed of nine triplets of microtubules. The basal body has a 9 + 0 pattern, meaning that it lacks the central pair of microtubules. The basal body also has a ring of nine accessory structures called basal feet, which are involved in anchoring the cilium or flagellum to the cell cortex.
- Dynein arms: The motor proteins that are attached to the outer doublets of microtubules and generate force for bending the axoneme. Dynein arms use ATP as an energy source to slide adjacent doublets past each other, causing the axoneme to bend. Dynein arms are oriented in a clockwise direction along the axoneme, meaning that they point toward the minus end of the adjacent doublet.
- Nexin links: The protein bridges that connect adjacent doublets and limit the sliding movement of dynein arms. Nexin links maintain the shape and stability of the axoneme and prevent it from breaking apart during bending.
- Radial spokes: The protein complexes that extend from each outer doublet to the central pair of microtubules. Radial spokes regulate the activity of dynein arms by transmitting signals from the central pair to the outer doublets. Radial spokes also help to maintain the 9 + 2 arrangement of microtubules in the axoneme.
Cilia and flagella are complex filamentous cytoplasmic structures that protrude from the cell surface and are involved in various types of cellular movements. They are composed of a core of microtubules surrounded by a membrane that is continuous with the plasma membrane of the cell. The microtubules are arranged in a characteristic pattern known as the 9 + 2 array .
The 9 + 2 array consists of nine pairs of microtubules, called doublets, that form a ring around two single microtubules, called singlets, in the center. Each doublet is composed of one complete microtubule, called the A subfiber, and one incomplete microtubule, called the B subfiber. The A subfiber has 13 protofilaments, which are linear polymers of tubulin molecules, while the B subfiber has only 10 protofilaments .
Each A subfiber has two projections, called dynein arms, that extend toward the adjacent B subfiber. Dynein is a motor protein that uses the energy from ATP hydrolysis to generate force and movement along the microtubules. The dynein arms are responsible for sliding the doublets past each other and causing the bending of cilia and flagella .
The doublets are also connected by two types of linkers: nexin links and radial spokes. Nexin links are protein bridges that join adjacent doublets and limit the sliding between them. Radial spokes are protein complexes that extend from each A subfiber to the central pair of singlets. The radial spokes are involved in regulating the activity of dynein and coordinating the beating pattern of cilia and flagella .
The central pair of singlets is also surrounded by a protein sheath and has projections, called central pair arms, that interact with the radial spokes. The central pair rotates within the ring of doublets and may play a role in determining the direction of bending .
The base of each cilium or flagellum is anchored to the cell by a structure called the basal body. The basal body is derived from a centriole, which is a cylindrical organelle composed of nine triplets of microtubules arranged in a 9 + 0 pattern. The basal body serves as a template for the assembly of the axoneme and also connects it to the cytoskeleton .
The structure of cilia and flagella is highly conserved among eukaryotes, but differs significantly from that of prokaryotes. Prokaryotic flagella are simpler and thinner than eukaryotic ones, and consist of a single helical filament made of flagellin protein. Prokaryotic flagella are driven by a rotary motor at their base that spins them like propellers .
Some possible additional sentences to conclude the point are:
- Thus, cilia and flagella have a similar structure in eukaryotes, but differ in their length, number, and mode of beating.
- The structure of cilia and flagella reflects their function in generating different types of movements for cells or substances.
- Cilia and flagella are examples of how cells use microtubules and motor proteins to create complex and coordinated motions.
Cilia and flagella are both composed of microtubules arranged in a 9 + 2 pattern, but they differ in their mode of movement and function. In eukaryotes, cilia and flagella use a sliding mechanism powered by dynein motors to generate bending waves along their length. In prokaryotes, flagella use a rotary mechanism powered by a proton gradient to spin like propellers.
Eukaryotic Cilia and Flagella
In eukaryotic cells, cilia and flagella are anchored to the cell membrane by a basal body, which is derived from a centriole. The basal body contains nine triplet microtubules arranged in a ring. The axoneme extends from the basal body and consists of nine doublet microtubules surrounding two central singlet microtubules. The doublets are connected by nexin links and radial spokes. Each doublet has two dynein arms that can attach to the adjacent doublet and move along it.
The movement of cilia and flagella is driven by the hydrolysis of ATP by the dynein arms. When the dynein arms on one side of the axoneme are activated, they pull the adjacent doublets toward them, causing the axoneme to bend. The bending wave travels from the base to the tip of the cilium or flagellum. When the dynein arms on the opposite side are activated, they pull the doublets back to their original position, completing one cycle of movement.
The movement of cilia and flagella can be coordinated or asynchronous, depending on the function. For example, in paramecia, cilia beat in a coordinated fashion to propel the cell through water. In human respiratory tract, cilia beat in an asynchronous fashion to create a metachronal wave that sweeps mucus and debris toward the throat.
In prokaryotic cells, such as bacteria, flagella are simpler structures that consist of a single protein called flagellin. Flagellin molecules form a hollow tube that extends from the cell membrane to the outside. The base of the flagellum is attached to a motor complex that rotates the flagellum like a propeller.
The motor complex consists of a rod that passes through a series of rings embedded in the cell membrane and cell wall. The rings act as bearings that allow the rod to rotate freely. The rotation is powered by a proton gradient across the cell membrane, which drives a flow of protons through a channel in one of the rings. The flow of protons causes conformational changes in the proteins that make up the motor, resulting in torque generation.
The direction and speed of rotation can be controlled by sensory signals that modulate the proton flow. For example, bacteria can use chemotaxis to sense and move toward or away from chemical gradients in their environment. Depending on the type and number of flagella, bacteria can exhibit different swimming patterns, such as run-and-tumble or helical motion.
Cilia are short, hair-like structures that are used to move entire cells or substances along the outer surface of the cell. Cilia can be classified into two types: motile and non-motile. Motile cilia are capable of beating in a coordinated manner to generate fluid movement, while non-motile cilia act as sensory organelles that receive and process signals from the surrounding environment. Cilia have various functions depending on their location and type. Some of the functions of cilia are:
- Locomotion: Cilia are used for locomotion in isolated cells, such as certain protozoans (e.g., Paramecium) . Motile cilia use their rhythmic undulation to propel the cell through the water or to create water currents around the cell .
- Clearance: Motile cilia use their rhythmic undulation to sweep away substances, such as dirt, dust, micro-organisms and mucus, from the epithelial surface . This function is important for preventing disease and maintaining homeostasis. For example, cilia in the respiratory tract trap and remove foreign particles and pathogens from the airways . Cilia in the fallopian tubes move the ovum toward the uterus . Cilia in the ependymal cells of the brain circulate cerebrospinal fluid .
- Development: Cilia play roles in the cell cycle as well as animal development, such as in the heart . Motile cilia generate fluid flows that influence the patterning and symmetry of embryonic tissues . Non-motile cilia regulate signaling pathways that control cell proliferation, differentiation and polarity .
- Sensing: Cilia selectively allow certain proteins to function properly . Non-motile cilia serve as sensory apparatus for cells, detecting signals from the surrounding fluids . Cilia have a role in sensory neurons, such as photoreceptors of the retina and olfactory neurons of the nose . Cilia also sense mechanical stimuli, such as fluid flow and shear stress . For example, cilia in the kidney tubules sense urine flow and regulate salt and water balance .
- Symbiosis: Cilia provide habitats or recruitment areas for symbiotic microbiomes in animals . For example, cilia in the gut epithelium facilitate the colonization of beneficial bacteria and modulate host immunity .
- Secretion: Cilia have also been discovered to participate in vesicular secretion of ectosomes, which are membrane-bound vesicles that carry proteins, lipids and nucleic acids . Ectosomes can mediate intercellular communication and modulate immune responses .
Flagella are long, whip-like structures that protrude from certain cells and microorganisms to provide motility. Flagella can also have other functions, such as sensing the environment, aiding in reproduction, transmitting diseases, and secreting substances. The functions of flagella vary depending on the type of organism and the structure of the flagellum.
Functions of Flagella in Eukaryotes
Eukaryotic flagella are composed of microtubules arranged in a 9+2 pattern, surrounded by a plasma membrane. They are powered by ATP and move by a bending mechanism. Eukaryotic flagella perform the following functions:
- Locomotion: Flagella enable some eukaryotic cells to swim through liquid environments, such as sperm cells, protozoans, algae, and some fungi. For example, flagella help sperm cells to reach the egg for fertilization, and flagella help protozoans such as Euglena to move towards light for photosynthesis.
- Feeding: Flagella can also help some eukaryotic cells to capture food particles or prey. For example, flagella help some protists such as dinoflagellates and choanoflagellates to create water currents that bring food towards their mouthparts.
- Reproduction: Flagella can also play a role in increasing the reproduction rates of some eukaryotic cells. For example, flagella help some algae such as Chlamydomonas to undergo sexual reproduction by allowing the gametes to fuse together.
- Sensing: Flagella can also act as sensory organelles that can detect changes in temperature, pH, light, chemicals, and mechanical stimuli. For example, flagella help some protists such as Trypanosoma to sense their host`s blood and evade the immune system.
- Secretion: Flagella can also function as secretory organelles that can release substances such as hormones, enzymes, toxins, or ectosomes. For example, flagella help some algae such as Chlamydomonas to secrete hydrogen peroxide as a defense mechanism against predators.
Functions of Flagella in Prokaryotes
Prokaryotic flagella are composed of a protein called flagellin, arranged in a helical filament that rotates by a motor at its base. They are powered by proton or sodium gradients across the cell membrane and move by a rotary mechanism. Prokaryotic flagella perform the following functions:
- Locomotion: Flagella enable most prokaryotic cells to swim through liquid environments, such as bacteria and archaea. For example, flagella help bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Salmonella to move towards nutrients or away from harmful substances (chemotaxis), or towards oxygen or away from light (phototaxis).
- Infection: Flagella can also help some pathogenic bacteria to infect their hosts and cause diseases. For example, flagella help bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori to penetrate the mucus layer and reach the stomach epithelium, where they can cause ulcers or gastritis.
- Adhesion: Flagella can also function as bridges or scaffolds for adhesion to host tissues or surfaces. For example, flagella help bacteria such as Vibrio cholerae to attach to the intestinal epithelium and secrete toxins that cause diarrhea.
We are Compiling this Section. Thanks for your understanding.