Imaging Tetrahymena thermophila cilia

Tetrahymena thermophila are covered by about 21 rows cilia each with about 30 cilia. These 600 odd cilia allow it to propagate by beating in a coordinated way. The cilia also surround the oral apparatus to sweep food into it. These cilia are probably in the 1 micrometer range and hence imaging them requires one to use techniques like dark field and angular illumination with the foldscope. So here is a video of the same. The subcellular organelles, including the macronucleus, the micronucleus and the vacuoles are also really clear in this view. One of the most interesting subcellular organelle is the contractile vacuole, a kind of osmolarity regulator that pumps out water from within the cell. The frequency of contractions is a function of the osmolarity differential between the cell and the surrounding medium. Towards the end of the video (1:42) you see the background turning red due to a technique called Rheinberg illumination that I shall reserve for a separate post.

The assett program lists several wonderful modules that one can do with Tetrahymena and its free!! Peruse them and if possible and ask your local school science programs to get involved.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Manu Prakash says:

    Beautiful note @Laks. 600 is a lot of cilia.. often with small ciliates; it’s not obvious – but that’s a lot of cilia to coordinate and control for something coherent as swimming behavior.

    Also; it would be nice to make some periodicity plots on the contractile vacuoles.

    Can’t wait for your ryidenberg illumination post.


  2. laksiyer says:

    Dear @Manu. How do I do this? ImageJ. Like the beating heart video that you made of Daphnia? I showed Jim the Rheinberg hack, he even took some pictures. Will post on it soon.

  3. Manu Prakash says:

    Yes. ImageJ would be the simplest place to start – if the ciliate is not swimming for some of the time frame; it would be very simple.

    ImageJ also has some very nice tracking functions; so it can track the organism in the field of view to make it perfectly stationary.


  4. RebeccaKonte says:

    Laks, beautiful post, and looking forward to seeing the Rheinberg hack. Also, I’m glad you shared this– as it reminded me that I have a video from the ASSET event relating to tetrahymena & cilia! I’ll post now!

  5. laksiyer says:

    @Rebecca. I have discovered several interesting variants on the Rheinberg hack I showed you and Jim at Cornell. Cant wait to share. Perhaps once work eases up later this weekend.

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