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Flagella are highly conserved organelles present in a wide variety of species. In Trypanosoma brucei the single flagellum is necessary for morphogenesis, cell motility and pathogenesis, and is attached along the cell body. A new flagellum is formed alongside the old during the cell division cycle. In the (insect) procyclic form, the flagella connector (FC) attaches the tip of the new flagellum to the side of the old flagellum, ensuring faithful replication of cell architecture. The FC is not present in the bloodstream form of the parasite. We show here, using new imaging techniques including serial block-face scanning electron microscopy (SBF-SEM), that the distal tip of the new flagellum in the bloodstream form is embedded within an invagination in the cell body plasma membrane, named the groove. We suggest that the groove has a similar function to the flagella connector. The groove is a mobile junction located alongside the microtubule quartet (MtQ) and occurred within a gap in the subpellicular microtubule corset, causing significant modification of microtubules during elongation of the new flagellum. It appears likely that this novel form of morphogenetic structure has evolved to withstand the hostile immune response in the mammalian blood.

Original publication




Journal article


J Cell Sci

Publication Date





5748 - 5757


Axoneme, Flagellum, Microtubule, SBF-SEM, Serial block face scanning electron microscopy, Trypanosoma brucei, Adaptation, Biological, Axoneme, Cell Cycle, Flagella, Life Cycle Stages, Microscopy, Electron, Transmission, Trypanosoma brucei brucei, Trypanosomiasis