PerspectiveMicrobiology

Tumbling for Stealth?

Science  24 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5939, pp. 400-402
DOI: 10.1126/science.1177269

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Summary

One of the most remarkable and pervasive feats in the microscopic world is the coordination of flagella, the slender, whiplike structures that protrude from many types of cells. The collective motion of flagella (also known as cilia when they occur in large numbers in eukaryotes) drives fluid transport (1), and permits individuals to save energy through cooperation (2). Because the internal structure of cilia is highly conserved among eukaryotes from algae to humans, free-swimming organisms like Chlamydomonas (see the first figure, panel A) have long been powerful model systems (3). On page 487 of this issue, Polin et al. (4) show how synchronization of the flagella in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii governs the movement of this green alga through water, a key determinant of its ecological fitness.