Basal body multipotency and axonemal remodelling are two pathways to a 9+0 flagellum.
Wheeler RJ., Gluenz E., Gull K.
Eukaryotic cilia/flagella exhibit two characteristic ultrastructures reflecting two main functions; a 9+2 axoneme for motility and a 9+0 axoneme for sensation and signalling. Whether, and if so how, they interconvert is unclear. Here we analyse flagellum length, structure and molecular composition changes in the unicellular eukaryotic parasite Leishmania during the transformation of a life cycle stage with a 9+2 axoneme (the promastigote) to one with a 9+0 axoneme (the amastigote). We show 9+0 axonemes can be generated by two pathways: by de novo formation and by restructuring of existing 9+2 axonemes associated with decreased intraflagellar transport. Furthermore, pro-basal bodies formed under conditions conducive for 9+2 axoneme formation can form a 9+0 axoneme de novo. We conclude that pro-centrioles/pro-basal bodies are multipotent and not committed to form either a 9+2 or 9+0 axoneme. In an alternative pathway structures can also be removed from existing 9+2 axonemes to convert them to 9+0.