Sea urchin sperm were demembranated and reactivated with a solution containing 0.04% Triton X-100 and 0.03 mM ATP. The ATP concentration was then lowered abruptly by diluting the sperm suspension 50-fold into reactivating solution containing no ATP. The flagella of the sperm in the diluted suspension were not motile, but they were bent into a variety of stationary rigor wave forms closely resembling the wave forms occurring at different stages of the flagellar bending cycle during normal movement. The form of these rigor waves was unchanged upon storage for several hours in the presence of dithiothreitol and EDTA. Addition of 1 µM ATP induced slow relaxation of the waves, with most of the sperm becoming partially straightened over a period of about 30 min; somewhat higher concentrations gave a more rapid and complete relaxation. Concentrations of ATP above 10 µM induced resumption of normal beating movements. Addition of ITP, GTP, or GDP (up to 1 mM) produced no relaxation of the rigor waves. Digestion with trypsin to an extent sufficient to disrupt the radial spokes and the nexin links caused no change in the rigor wave forms, suggesting that these wave forms could be maintained by the dynein cross-bridges between the outer doublet tubules of the flagellar axoneme. Study of the effects of viscous shear on the rigor wave axonemes has shown that they are resistant to distortion by bending, although they can be twisted relatively easily.

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