High-speed multifocal plane fluorescence microscopy for three-dimensional visualisation of beating flagella

Benjamin J. Walker, Richard J. Wheeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (SciVal)


Analysis of flagellum and cilium beating in three dimensions (3D) is important for understanding cell motility, and using fluorescence microscopy to do so would be extremely powerful. Here, high-speed multifocal plane fluorescence microscopy, where the light path is split to visualise multiple focal planes simultaneously, was used to reconstruct Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania mexicana movement in 3D. These species are uniflagellate unicellular parasites for which motility is vital. It was possible to use either a fluorescent stain or a genetically-encoded fluorescent protein to visualise flagellum and cell movement at 200 Hz frame rates. This addressed two open questions regarding Trypanosoma and Leishmania flagellum beating, which contributes to their swimming behaviours: 1) how planar is the L. mexicana flagellum beat, and 2) what is the nature of flagellum beating during T. brucei ‘tumbling’? We showed that L. mexicana has notable deviations from a planar flagellum beat, and that during tumbling the T. brucei flagellum bends the cell and beats only in the distal portion to achieve cell reorientation. This demonstrates high-speed multifocal plane fluorescence microscopy as a powerful tool for the analysis of beating flagella.

Original languageEnglish
Article number231795
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council [EP/N509711/1] and the Wellcome Trust [211075/Z/18/Z, 104627/Z/14/Z, 103261/Z/13/Z]. Deposited in PMC for immediate release.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


  • Cilia
  • Flagella
  • Leishmania
  • Microscopy
  • Trypanosoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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