Computer simulation is used to examine a simple flagellar model that will initiate and propagate bending waves in the absence of viscous resistances. The model contains only an elastic bending resistance and an active sliding mechanism that generates reduced active shear moment with increasing sliding velocity. Oscillation results from a distributed control mechanism that reverses the direction of operation of the active sliding mechanism when the curvature reaches critical magnitudes in either direction. Bend propagation by curvature-controlled flagellar models therefore does not require interaction with the viscous resistance of an external fluid. An analytical examination of moment balance during bend propagation by this model yields a solution curve giving values of frequency and wavelength that satisfy the moment balance equation and give uniform bend propagation, suggesting that the model is underdetermined. At 0 viscosity, the boundary condition of 0 shear rate at the basal end of the flagellum during the development of new bends selects the particular solution that is obtained by computer simulations. Therefore, the details of the pattern of bend initiation at the basal end of a flagellum can be of major significance in determining the properties of propagated bending waves in the distal portion of a flagellum. At high values of external viscosity, the model oscillates at frequencies and wavelengths that give approximately integral numbers of waves on the flagellum. These operating points are selected because they facilitate the balance of bending moments at the ends of the model, where the external viscous moment approaches 0. These mode preferences can be overridden by forcing the model to operate at a predetermined frequency. The strong mode preferences shown by curvature-controlled flagellar models, in contrast to the weak or absent mode preferences shown by real flagella, therefore do not demonstrate the inapplicability of the moment-balance approach to real flagella. Instead, they indicate a need to specify additional properties of real flagella that are responsible for selecting particular operating points. © 1985, The Biophysical Society. All rights reserved.
Brokaw, C. J. (1985). Computer simulation of flagellar movement. VI. Simple curvature-controlled models are incompletely specified. Biophysical Journal, 48(4), 633–642. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(85)83819-4