The midpiece of Thyone sperm contains a large mitochondrion and a centriolar pair. Associated with one of the pair, i.e., the basal body of the flagellum, are satellite structures which apparently anchor the flagellar axoneme to the mitochondrion and to the plasma membrane covering the midpiece. Immediately before and as the acrosomal process elongates, the flagellum and the midpiece begin to rotate at 1-2 rotations per second even though the head of the sperm, by being firmly attached on its lateral surfaces to the coverslip, does not rotate at all. This rotation is not observed in the absence of flagellar beating whose frequency is much greater than that of its gyration. To understand how the midpiece rotates relative to the sperm head, it is first necessary to realize that in Thyone the flagellar axoneme projects at an acute angle to the principal axis of the sperm and is bent towards one side of this axis. Thus movement of the flagellum induces the sperm to tumble or yaw in solution. If the head is stuck, the midpiece will rotate because all that connects the sperm head to the midpiece is the plasma membrane, a liquid-like layer. A finger-like projection extends from the proximal centriole into an indentation in the basal end of the nucleus. In contrast to the asymmetry of the flagellum, this indentation is situated exactly on the principal axis of the sperm and, along with the finger-like projection, acts as a biological bearing to maintain the orderly rotation of the midpiece. The biological purpose of flagellar gyration during fertilization is discussed.

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