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Immediately following embryonic cleavage, the cells of Astrephomene have four equal-sized basal bodies, two of which are connected by a striated distal fibre and two striated proximal fibres. The four microtubular rootlets, which alternate between having 3/1 and 2 members, are arranged cruciately. The two basal bodies that are connected by the striated fibres then extend into flagella, while the two accessory basal bodies are now markedly shorter. At this stage the flagellar apparatus has 180 degrees rotational symmetry and is very similar to the flagellar apparatus of the unicellular Chlamydomonas and related algae. Development proceeds with a number of concurrent events. The basal bodies begin to separate at their proximal ends and become nearly parallel. Each striated proximal fibre detaches at one end from one of the basal bodies. Each half of the flagellar apparatus, which consists of a flagellum and attached basal body, an accessory basal body, two rootlets and a striated fibre (formerly one of the proximal striated fibres), rotates about 90 degrees, the two halves rotating in opposite directions. An electron-dense strut forms near one two-membered rootlet and grows past both basal bodies. During this time a fine, fibrous component appears between newly developed spade-like structures and associated amorphous material connected to each basal body. The basal bodies continue to separate as the distal fibre stretches and finally detaches from one of them. These processes result in the loss of the 180 degree rotational symmetry present in previous stages. Although the flagella continue to separate, there is no further reorganization of the components of the flagellar apparatus. In the mature cell of Astrephomene, the two flagella are inserted separately and are parallel. The four microtubular rootlets are no longer arranged cruciately. Three of the rootlets are nearly parallel, while the fourth is approximately perpendicular to the other three. A straited fibre connects each basal body to the underside of the strut. These fibres run in the direction of the effective stroke of the flagella and might be important either in anchoring the basal bodies or in the initiation of flagellar motion. Unlike the case in the unicellular Chlamydomonas, the two flagella beat in the same direction and in parallel planes. The flagella of a given cell may or may not beat in synchrony. The combination of this type of flagellar motion and the parallel, separate flagella appears to be suited to the motion of this colonial organism.


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