Undulations of the flagellate Saccinobaculus result from motility in its axostyle, a bundle consisting of thousands of cross-bridged microtubules. In its resting state, the axostyle is a helix of large pitch and slowly varying radius. The active state as seen by light microscopy involves first a bending of the anterior end of the axostyle to a radius of about 8 µm with a circular arc ranging from 60° to 180°, and then the propagation of this bend without damping to the posterior end of the organism at speeds up to 100 µm/s. The cross section of an unbent axostyle is crescent shaped. This crescent flattens as the bend arrives and reappears as the bend passes by. Intertubule bridges impart to the axostyle tubules an axial periodicity of about 150 Å which can serve as a marker for the investigation of tubule sliding or contraction associated with bend formation. Optical diffraction measurements on electron micrographs of the bend demonstrate that the axostyle tubules slide over one another and that the tubules on the inside of a bend usually contract, sometimes by as much as 25%. Possible relationships between the contraction and sliding of the tubules are discussed.

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