Flagellum

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Difference of beating pattern of flagellum and cilia. Flagellum is the one on the left, cilia are on the right.

A flagellum (plural: flagella) is a long, whip-like projection of a cell composed of microtubules. They help propel cells and organisms in a whip-like motion. The flagellum of eukaryotes usually moves with an “S” motion, and is surrounded by cell membrane.

Flagella are structurally almost identical with the much smaller Cilia. So much so that it has been proposed protists bearing either should be unified in the Phylum Undulipodia.[1] Previously, Margulis had proposed that the Ciliates alone should be placed in a Phylum Ciliophora.[2] Admittedly, the Protista is a collection of disparate single-celled forms, but while a more sophisticated taxonomy is in flux (changing), Protista is still a useful term.

Cilia and flagella are cell organelles, specialised units which carry out well-defined functions, like mitochondria and plastids. It is fairly clear now that all or most of these organelles have their origin in once-independent prokaryotes (bacteria or archaea), and that the eukaryote cell is a 'community of micro-organisms' working together in 'a marriage of convenience'.[3]

Types[change | change source]

Three types of flagella have so far been distinguished; bacterial, archaeal and eukaryotic. The main differences among these three types are summarized below:

  • Bacterial flagella are helical filaments that rotate like screws.[4][5][6] They provide two of several kinds of bacterial motility.[7][8]
  • Archaeal flagella are superficially similar to bacterial flagella, but are different in many details and considered non-homologous.[9][10][11]
  • Eukaryotic flagella – those of animal, plant, and protist cells – are complex cellular projections that lash back and forth. Eukaryotic flagella are classed along with eukaryotic motile cilia as undulipodia[12] to emphasize their distinctive wavy appendage role in cellular function or motility. Primary cilia are immotile, and are not undulipodia; they have a structurally different 9+0 axoneme rather than the 9+2 axoneme found in both flagella and motile cilia undulopodia.

References[change | change source]

  1. Margulis L & Dolan M.F. 2002. Early life: evolution on the Precambrian Earth. 2nd ed, Jones & Bartlett, Boston. p89
  2. Margulis L. Schwartz K.V. & Dolan M. 1999. Diversity of life: the illustrated guide to the five kingdoms. Jones & Bartlett, Boston, p94. In this work the authors propose 19 phyla for the Protista, and call this 'Kingdom' the 'Protoctista', a term which is unfortunately almost unpronounceable.
  3. Margulis L. and McMenamin 1990. Marriage of convenience. The Sciences 30, 31-36.
  4. Silverman M. & Simon M (1974). "Flagellar rotation and the mechanism of bacterial motility". Nature 249 (452): 73–74. doi:10.1038/249073a0. PMID 4598030.
  5. Meister GLM, Berg HC (1987). "Rapid rotation of flagellar bundles in swimming bacteria". Nature 325: 637–640. doi:10.1038/325637a0.
  6. Berg HC, Anderson RA (1973). "Bacteria swim by rotating their flagellar filaments". Nature 245 (5425): 380–382. doi:10.1038/245380a0. PMID 4593496.
  7. Jahn TL, Bovee EC (1965). "Movement and locomotion of microorganisms". Annual Review of Microbiology 19: 21–58. doi:10.1146/annurev.mi.19.100165.000321. PMID 5318439.
  8. Harshey RM (2003). "Bacterial motility on a surface: many ways to a common goal". Annual Review of Microbiology 57: 249–273. doi:10.1146/annurev.micro.57.030502.091014. PMID 14527279.
  9. Ng SY, Chaban B, Jarrell KF (2006). "Archaeal flagella, bacterial flagella and type IV pili: a comparison of genes and posttranslational modifications". J. Mol. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 11 (3–5): 167–91. doi:10.1159/000094053. PMID 16983194.
  10. Metlina AL (2004). "Bacterial and archaeal flagella as prokaryotic motility organelles". Biochemistry Mosc. 69 (11): 1203–12. doi:10.1007/s10541-005-0065-8. PMID 15627373.
  11. Jarrell et al. (2009). "Archaeal flagella and pili". Pili and flagella: current research and future trends. Caister Academic Press. ISBN 978-1-904455-48-6.
  12. A Dictionary of Biology, 2004, accessed 2011-01-01.

Other websites[change | change source]