A rapid, Ca2+-dependent change in the angle between basal bodies (up to 180 degrees) is associated with light-induced reversal of swimming direction (the "photophobic" response) in a number of flagellated green algae. In isolated, detergent-extracted, reactivated flagellar apparatus complexes of Spermatozopsis similis, axonemal beat form conversion to the symmetrical/undulating flagellar pattern and basal body reorientation (from the antiparallel to the parallel configuration) are simultaneously induced at greater than or equal to 10(-7) M Ca2+. Basal body reorientation, however, is independent of flagellar beating since it is induced at greater than or equal to 10(-7) M Ca2+ when flagellar beating is inhibited (i.e., in the presence of 1 microM orthovanadate in reactivation solutions; in the absence of ATP or dithiothreitol in isolation and reactivation solutions), or when axonemes are mechanically removed from flagellar apparatuses. Although frequent axonemal beat form reversals were induced by varying the Ca2+ concentration, antiparallel basal body configuration could not be restored in isolated flagellar apparatuses. Observations of the photophobic response in vivo indicate that even though the flagella resume the asymmetric, breaststroke beat form 1-2 s after photostimulation, antiparallel basal body configuration is not restored until a few minutes later. Using an antibody generated against the 20-kD Ca2+-modulated contractile protein of striated flagellar roots of Tetraselmis striata (Salisbury, J. L., A. Baron, B. Surek, and M. Melkonian, 1984, J. Cell Biol., 99:962-970), we have found the distal connecting fiber of Spermatozopsis similis to be immunoreactive by indirect immunofluorescence and immunogold electron microscopy. Electrophoretic and immunoblot analysis indicates that the antigen of S. similis flagellar apparatuses consists, like the Tetraselmis protein, of two acidic isoforms of 20 kD. We conclude that the distal basal body connecting fiber is a contractile organelle and reorients basal bodies during the photophobic response in certain flagellated green algae.

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