Primary cilia have a length-dependent persistence length

Justin Flaherty, Zhe Feng, Zhangli Peng, Y. N. Young, Andrew Resnick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The fluctuating position of an optically trapped cilium tip under untreated and Taxol-treated conditions was used to characterize mechanical properties of the cilium axoneme and its basal body by combining experimental, analytical,and computational tools. We provide, for the first time, evidence that the persistence length of a ciliary axoneme is length-dependent; longer cilia are stiffer than shorter cilia. We demonstrate that this apparent length dependence can be understood by a combination of modeling axonemal microtubules as anisotropic elastic shells and including actomyosin-driven stochastic basal body motion.Our results also demonstrate the possibility of using observable ciliary dynamics to probe interior cytoskeletal dynamics. It is hoped that our improved characterization of cilia will result in deeper understanding of the biological function of cellular flow sensing by this organelle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-460
Number of pages16
JournalBiomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Mechanical Engineering


  • Elastic shell
  • Mechanobiology
  • Primary cilia


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