Massive actin bundle couples macrocilia to muscles in the ctenophore Beroƫ. Academic Article uri icon


  • Macrocilia are thick compound ciliary organelles arising individually from elongated epithelial cells on the lips of beroid ctenophores. A giant wedge-shaped bundle of microfilaments extends 25-30 microns from the base of each macrocilium to the lower end of the cell, terminating at a junction with an underlying smooth muscle cell. The broad end of the microfilament bundle is anchored to the macrocilium by striated rootlet fibers that extend from the basal bodies into the bundle and are linked to the microfilaments by periodic bridges. Fluorescence microscopy of rhodamine-phalloidin stained intact tissue, dissociated macrociliary cells, and Triton/glycerol-isolated bundles shows that the microfilaments contain actin. The microfilaments run generally parallel to the long axis of the bundle but are not highly ordered. Filaments decorated with myosin S1 show a uniform polarity with arrowheads pointing away from the tapered membrane-associated end of the bundle. No variations in bundle length (nor changes in rootlet periodicity) were observed in tissue fixed under conditions of calcium activation. Isolated bundles did not contract in Mg-ATP, even though detached macrocilia underwent reactivated beating and sliding disintegration. Macrocilia are used to bite through food organisms or transport prey into the stomach. The actin filament bundles probably play a supporting role as a structural linker between macrocilia and subepithelial muscle fibers and may serve as intracellular tendons to mechanically coordinate the motor activities of macrocilia and muscles during prey ingestion.

publication date

  • 1987