Biomechanics of Tetrahymena escaping from a dead end

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the behaviours of swimming microorganisms in various environments is important for understanding cell distribution and growth in nature and industry. However, cell behaviour in complex geometries is largely unknown. In this study, we used Tetrahymena thermophila as a model microorganism and experimentally investigated cell behaviour between two flat plates with a small angle. In this configuration, the geometry provided a ‘dead end’ line where the two flat plates made contact. The results showed that cells tended to escape from the dead end line more by hydrodynamics than by a biological reaction. In the case of hydrodynamic escape, the cell trajectories were symmetric as they swam to and from the dead end line. Near the dead end line, T. thermophila cells were compressed between the two flat plates while cilia kept beating with reduced frequency; those cells again showed symmetric trajectories, although the swimming velocity decreased. These behaviours were well reproduced by our computational model based on biomechanics. The mechanism of hydrodynamic escape can be understood in terms of the torque balance induced by lubrication flow. We therefore conclude that a cell’s escape from the dead end was assisted by hydrodynamics. These findings pave the way for understanding cell behaviour and distribution in complex geometries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20172368
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1873
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb 28


  • Ciliate
  • Flagella
  • Fluid mechanics
  • Swimming


Dive into the research topics of 'Biomechanics of Tetrahymena escaping from a dead end'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this