Regulation of motile 9+2 cilia and flagella depends on interactions between radial spokes and a central pair apparatus. Although the central pair rotates during bend propagation in flagella of many organisms and rotation correlates with a twisted central pair structure, propulsive forces for central pair rotation and twist are unknown. Here we compared central pair conformation in straight, quiescent flagella to that in actively beating flagella using wild-type Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and mutants that lack radial spoke heads. Twists occur in quiescent flagella in both the presence and absence of spoke heads, indicating that spoke--central pair interactions are not needed to generate torque for twisting. Central pair orientation in propagating bends was also similar in wild type and spoke head mutant strains, thus orientation is a passive response to bend formation. These results indicate that bend propagation drives central pair rotation and suggest that dynein regulation by central pair--radial spoke interactions involves passive central pair reorientation to changes in bend plane.
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