Dynamics of cilia length in left–right development

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Petra Pintado
  • Pedro Sampaio
  • Barbara Tavares
  • Susana Lopes

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Universidade Nova de Lisboa


Reduction in the length of motile cilia in the zebrafish left–right organizer (LRO), also known as Kupffer’s vesicle, has a large impact on left–right development. Here we demonstrate through genetic overexpression in zebrafish embryos and mathematical modelling that the impact of increased motile cilia length in embryonic LRO fluid flow is milder than that of short cilia. Through Arl13b overexpression, which increases cilia length without impacting cilia beat frequency, we show that the increase in cilium length is associated with a decrease in beat amplitude, resulting in similar flow strengths for Arl13b
overexpression and wild-type (WT) embryos, which were not predicted by current theory. Longer cilia exhibit pronounced helical beat patterns and, consequently, lower beat amplitudes relative to WT, a result of an elastohydrodynamic shape transition. For long helical cilia, fluid dynamics modelling predicts a mild (approx. 12%) reduction in the torque
exerted on the fluid relative to the WT, resulting in a proportional reduction in flow generation. This mild reduction is corroborated by experiments, providing a mechanism for the mild impact on organ situs.


Original languageEnglish
Article number161102
Number of pages9
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2017