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Length-dependent disassembly maintains four different flagellar lengths in Giardia.


With eight flagella of four different lengths, the parasitic protist Giardia is an ideal model to evaluate flagellar assembly and length regulation. To determine how four different flagellar lengths are maintained, we used live-cell quantitative imaging and mathematical modeling of conserved components of intraflagellar transport (IFT)-mediated assembly and kinesin-13-mediated disassembly in different flagellar pairs. Each axoneme has a long cytoplasmic region extending from the basal body, and transitions to a canonical membrane-bound flagellum at the 'flagellar pore'. We determined that each flagellar pore is the site of IFT accumulation and injection, defining a diffusion barrier functionally analogous to the transition zone. IFT-mediated assembly is length-independent, as train size, speed, and injection frequencies are similar for all flagella. We demonstrate that kinesin-13 localization to the flagellar tips is inversely correlated to flagellar length. Therefore, we propose a model where a length-dependent disassembly mechanism controls multiple flagellar lengths within the same cell.

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