Mechanisms and Strategies of Photomovements in Flagellates

  • Giuliano Colombetti
  • Roberto Marangoni
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSA, volume 211)


Among the many fascinating aspects of the life of microorganisms there is certainly their capacity to sense signals coming from the outside world and to react by altering their motile behavior (Colombetti and Petracchi, 1988). We will be dealing with a particular type of stimulus, light, and with its effect on the motor response of flagellated algae. There are several reasons that justify the choice of this type of stimulus (light plays a fundamental role for life on Earth, just think of vision and of photosynthesis). There are also practical reasons: light stimuli can be given and removed at will, it is easy to vary their spectral characteristics, intensity, polarization and also their time behavior can be kept relatively easily under control. It is thus possible to give very short light stimuli or to vary light intensity according to a predetermined temporal pattern or to apply different stimuli at the same time and also to different parts of a cell body. The motor responses of different cells may differ considerably, also according to the different structures of their motor apparatuses, and there have been (and there are) debates in the literature about terminology. We will simply and schematically speak of photophobic and phototactic reactions. In photophobic reactions a change in light intensity causes a transient alteration in the activity of the organism’s motor apparatus. Where the occurrence of a response depends upon an increase or decrease in stimulus intensity, an increase is indicated by the term “step-up” and a decrease by the term “step-down”.


Light Trap Fluence Rate Light Direction Euglena Gracilis Positive Phototaxis 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giuliano Colombetti
    • 1
  • Roberto Marangoni
    • 2
  1. 1.Istituto di Biofisica CNRPisaItaly
  2. 2.Istituto di Biofisica CNRUniversita di GenovaGenovaItaly

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