A new study published in the journal Development Cell reveals that researchers at Portugal's Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC) have discovered the process through which sperm cells of a fruit fly develop their flagella, the slender hair-like structures that extend from the surface of the cells and help them move forward.
These findings pave the way to further understand the molecules and processes that may trigger a variety of human diseases and disorders, including infertility, respiratory problems and hydrocephaly, known to be associated with defects in flagellar movements.
Using electron microscopy - which allows scientists to see structures that are 3,500 times thinner than a strand of human hair - Monica Bettencourt-Dias and her team described, for the first time ever, the different steps involved in making a motile flagellum in sperm cells of the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster
). The team was particularly interested in when and how a critical protein structure - called the central microtubule pair - is formed. Without the central microtubule pair complex, the flagellum is unable to move in a coordinated fashion.