3D structure of eukaryotic flagella in an quiescent state revealed by cryo-electron tomography

Daniela Nicastro, J. Richard McIntosh, Wolfgang Baumeister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


We have used cryo-electron tomography to investigate the 3D structure and macromolecular organization of intact, frozen-hydrated sea urchin sperm flagella in a quiescent state. The tomographic reconstructions provide information at a resolution better than 6 nm about the in situ arrangements of macromolecules that are key for flagellar motility. We have visualized the heptameric rings of the motor domains in the outer dynein arm complex and determined that they lie parallel to the plane that contains the axes of neighboring flagellar microtubules. Both the material associated with the central pair of microtubules and the radial spokes display a plane of symmetry that helps to explain the planar beat pattern of these flagella. Cryo-electron tomography has proven to be a powerful technique for helping us understand the relationships between flagellar structure and function and the design of maeromolecular machines in situ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15889-15894
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number44
StatePublished - Nov 1 2005


  • Axoneme
  • Dynein
  • Microtubule
  • Motility
  • Sperm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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