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Bend Propagation by a Sliding Filament Model for Flagella


1. If active sliding occurs between flagellar filaments, as suggested for the sliding filament mechanism for muscular contraction, it will generate positive bending in one direction along the flagellum and negative bending in the opposite direction. Bends will therefore be propagated automatically if the sliding process is activated by bending.

2. The active bending moment required to match the viscous bending moments resulting from the uniform propagation of bending waves can be generated by a simple relationship between the curvature of the flagellum at any point and the magnitude of the moment per unit length generated by the active sliding process at that point.

3. This propagation mechanism incorporates features of the two mechanisms proposed previously for flagellar-bend propagation. The major difficulties which arise when these propagation mechanisms are developed in terms of a ‘local-bending’ model for flagellar bending are avoided when a ‘sliding filament’ model is used.

4. The elastic constants of the flagellum have a minor role in bend propagation, and without additional assumptions their magnitudes cannot be obtained from measurements of the parameters of flagellar bending-wave propagation.

Permanent address, to which reprint requests should be sent: Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91109.