Kinematics of flagellar swimming in Euglena gracilis: Helical trajectories and flagellar shapes.
ABSTRACT: The flagellar swimming of euglenids, which are propelled by a single anterior flagellum, is characterized by a generalized helical motion. The 3D nature of this swimming motion, which lacks some of the symmetries enjoyed by more common model systems, and the complex flagellar beating shapes that power it make its quantitative description challenging. In this work, we provide a quantitative, 3D, highly resolved reconstruction of the swimming trajectories and flagellar shapes of specimens of Euglena gracilis We achieved this task by using high-speed 2D image recordings taken with a conventional inverted microscope combined with a precise characterization of the helical motion of the cell body to lift the 2D data to 3D trajectories. The propulsion mechanism is discussed. Our results constitute a basis for future biophysical research on a relatively unexplored type of eukaryotic flagellar movement.
Project description: The eukaryotic flagellum propels sperm cells and simultaneously detects physical and chemical cues that modulate the waveform of the flagellar beat. Most previous studies have characterized the flagellar beat and swimming trajectories in two space dimensions (2D) at a water/glass interface. Here, using refined holographic imaging methods, we report high-quality recordings of three-dimensional (3D) flagellar bending waves. As predicted by theory, we observed that an asymmetric and planar flagellar beat results in a circular swimming path, whereas a symmetric and non-planar flagellar beat results in a twisted-ribbon swimming path. During swimming in 3D, human sperm flagella exhibit torsion waves characterized by maxima at the low curvature regions of the flagellar wave. We suggest that these torsion waves are common in nature and that they are an intrinsic property of beating axonemes. We discuss how 3D beat patterns result in twisted-ribbon swimming paths. This study provides new insight into the axoneme dynamics, the 3D flagellar beat, and the resulting swimming behavior.
Project description:With the advent of sperm sex sorting methods and computer-aided sperm analysis platforms, comparative 2D motility studies showed that there is no significant difference in the swimming speeds of X-sorted and Y-sorted sperm cells, clarifying earlier misconceptions. However, other differences in their swimming dynamics might have been undetectable as conventional optical microscopes are limited in revealing the complete 3D motion of free-swimming sperm cells, due to poor depth resolution and the trade-off between field-of-view and spatial resolution. Using a dual-view on-chip holographic microscope, we acquired the full 3D locomotion of 235X-sorted and 289 Y-sorted bovine sperms, precisely revealing their 3D translational head motion and the angular velocity of their head spin as well as the 3D flagellar motion. Our results confirmed that various motility parameters remain similar between X- and Y-sorted sperm populations; however, we found out that there is a statistically significant difference in Y-sorted bovine sperms' preference for helix-shaped 3D swimming trajectories, also exhibiting an increased linearity compared to X-sorted sperms. Further research on e.g., the differences in the kinematic response of X-sorted and Y-sorted sperm cells to the surrounding chemicals and ions might shed more light on the origins of these results.
Project description:Rheotaxis, the directed response to fluid velocity gradients, has been shown to facilitate stable upstream swimming of mammalian sperm cells along solid surfaces, suggesting a robust physical mechanism for long-distance navigation during fertilization. However, the dynamics by which a human sperm orients itself relative to an ambient flow is poorly understood. Here, we combine microfluidic experiments with mathematical modeling and 3D flagellar beat reconstruction to quantify the response of individual sperm cells in time-varying flow fields. Single-cell tracking reveals two kinematically distinct swimming states that entail opposite turning behaviors under flow reversal. We constrain an effective 2D model for the turning dynamics through systematic large-scale parameter scans, and find good quantitative agreement with experiments at different shear rates and viscosities. Using a 3D reconstruction algorithm to identify the flagellar beat patterns causing left or right turning, we present comprehensive 3D data demonstrating the rolling dynamics of freely swimming sperm cells around their longitudinal axis. Contrary to current beliefs, this 3D analysis uncovers ambidextrous flagellar waveforms and shows that the cell's turning direction is not defined by the rolling direction. Instead, the different rheotactic turning behaviors are linked to a broken mirror symmetry in the midpiece section, likely arising from a buckling instability. These results challenge current theoretical models of sperm locomotion.
Project description:Wirelessly controlled nanoscale robots have the potential to be used for both in vitro and in vivo biomedical applications. So far, the vast majority of reported micro- and nanoscale swimmers have taken the approach of mimicking the rotary motion of helical bacterial flagella for propulsion, and are often composed of monolithic inorganic materials or photoactive polymers. However, currently no man-made soft nanohelix has the ability to rapidly reconfigure its geometry in response to multiple forms of environmental stimuli, which has the potential to enhance motility in tortuous heterogeneous biological environments. Here, we report magnetic actuation of self-assembled bacterial flagellar nanorobotic swimmers. Bacterial flagella change their helical form in response to environmental stimuli, leading to a difference in propulsion before and after the change in flagellar form. We experimentally and numerically characterize this response by studying the swimming of three flagellar forms. Also, we demonstrate the ability to steer these devices and induce flagellar bundling in multi-flagellated nanoswimmers.
Project description:It has frequently been hypothesized that the helical body shapes of flagellated bacteria may yield some advantage in swimming ability. In particular, the helical-shaped pathogen <i>Helicobacter pylori</i> is often claimed to swim like a corkscrew through its harsh gastric habitat, but there has been no direct confirmation or quantification of such claims. Using fast time-resolution and high-magnification two-dimensional (2D) phase-contrast microscopy to simultaneously image and track individual bacteria in bacterial broth as well as mucin solutions, we show that both helical and rod-shaped <i>H. pylori</i> rotated as they swam, producing a helical trajectory. Cell shape analysis enabled us to determine shape as well as the rotational and translational speed for both forward and reverse motions, thereby inferring flagellar kinematics. Using the method of regularized Stokeslets, we directly compare observed speeds and trajectories to numerical calculations for both helical and rod-shaped bacteria in mucin and broth to validate the numerical model. Although experimental observations are limited to select cases, the model allows quantification of the effects of body helicity, length, and diameter. We find that due to relatively slow body rotation rates, the helical shape makes at most a 15% contribution to propulsive thrust. The effect of body shape on swimming speeds is instead dominated by variations in translational drag required to move the cell body. Because helical cells are one of the strongest candidates for propulsion arising from the cell body, our results imply that quite generally, swimming speeds of flagellated bacteria can only be increased a little by body propulsion.
Project description:Sperm motion near surfaces plays a crucial role in fertilization, but the nature of this motion has not been resolved. Using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, we selectively imaged motile human and bull sperm located within one micron of a surface, revealing a distinct two-dimensional (2D) 'slither' swimming mode whereby the full cell length (50-80??m) is confined within 1??m of a surface. This behaviour is distinct from bulk and near-wall swimming modes where the flagellar wave is helical and the head continuously rotates. The slither mode is intermittent (?1?s, ?70??m), and in human sperm, is observed only for viscosities over 20?mPa·s. Bull sperm are slower in this surface-confined swimming mode, owing to a decrease in their flagellar wave amplitude. In contrast, human sperm are ?50% faster-suggesting a strategy that is well suited to the highly viscous and confined lumen within the human fallopian tube.
Project description:The Bacterial flagellar hook is a short supercoiled tubular structure made from a helical assembly of the hook protein FlgE. The hook acts as a universal joint that connects the flagellar basal body and filament, and smoothly transmits torque generated by the rotary motor to the helical filament propeller. In peritrichously flagellated bacteria, the hook allows the filaments to form a bundle behind the cell for swimming, and for the bundle to fall apart for tumbling. Here we report a native supercoiled hook structure at 3.6?Å resolution by cryoEM single particle image analysis of the polyhook. The atomic model built into the three-dimensional (3D) density map reveals the changes in subunit conformation and intersubunit interactions that occur upon compression and extension of the 11 protofilaments during their smoke ring-like rotation. These observations reveal how the hook functions as a dynamic molecular universal joint with high bending flexibility and twisting rigidity.
Project description:Many bacterial species swim by rotating single polar helical flagella. Depending on the direction of rotation, they can swim forward or backward and change directions to move along chemical gradients but also to navigate their obstructed natural environment in soils, sediments, or mucus. When they get stuck, they naturally try to back out, but they can also resort to a radically different flagellar mode, which we discovered here. Using high-speed microscopy, we monitored the swimming behavior of the monopolarly flagellated species Shewanella putrefaciens with fluorescently labeled flagellar filaments at an agarose-glass interface. We show that, when a cell gets stuck, the polar flagellar filament executes a polymorphic change into a spiral-like form that wraps around the cell body in a spiral-like fashion and enables the cell to escape by a screw-like backward motion. Microscopy and modeling suggest that this propagation mode is triggered by an instability of the flagellum under reversal of the rotation and the applied torque. The switch is reversible and bacteria that have escaped the trap can return to their normal swimming mode by another reversal of motor direction. The screw-type flagellar arrangement enables a unique mode of propagation and, given the large number of polarly flagellated bacteria, we expect it to be a common and widespread escape or motility mode in complex and structured environments.
Project description:Swimming Escherichia coli cells are propelled by the rotary motion of their flagellar filaments. In the normal swimming pattern, filaments positioned randomly over the cell form a bundle at the posterior pole. It has long been assumed that the hook functions as a universal joint, transmitting rotation on the motor axis through up to ?90° to the filament in the bundle. Structural models of the hook have revealed how its flexibility is expected to arise from dynamic changes in the distance between monomers in the helical lattice. In particular, each of the 11 protofilaments that comprise the hook is predicted to cycle between short and long forms, corresponding to the inside and outside of the curved hook, once each revolution of the motor when the hook is acting as a universal joint. To test this, we genetically modified the hook so that it could be stiffened by binding streptavidin to biotinylated monomers, impeding their motion relative to each other. We found that impeding the action of the universal joint resulted in atypical swimming behavior as a consequence of disrupted bundle formation, in agreement with the universal joint model.
Project description:Flagellar beating drives sperm through the female reproductive tract and is vital for reproduction. Flagellar waves are generated by thousands of asymmetric molecular components; yet, paradoxically, forward swimming arises via symmetric side-to-side flagellar movement. This led to the preponderance of symmetric flagellar control hypotheses. However, molecular asymmetries must still dictate the flagellum and be manifested in the beat. Here, we reconcile molecular and microscopic observations, reconnecting structure to function, by showing that human sperm uses asymmetric and anisotropic controls to swim. High-speed three-dimensional (3D) microscopy revealed two coactive transversal controls: An asymmetric traveling wave creates a one-sided stroke, and a pulsating standing wave rotates the sperm to move equally on all sides. Symmetry is thus achieved through asymmetry, creating the optical illusion of bilateral symmetry in 2D microscopy. This shows that the sperm flagellum is asymmetrically controlled and anisotropically regularized by fast-signal transduction. This enables the sperm to swim forward.