Four-dimensional analysis by high-speed holographic imaging reveals a chiral memory of sperm flagella

Here high-speed Digital Holographic Microscopy (DHM) records sperm flagellar waveforms and swimming paths in 4 dimensions (X, Z, and t). We find flagellar excursions into the Z-plane nearly as large as the envelope of the flagellar waveform projected onto the XY-plane. These Z-plane excursions travel as waves down the flagellum each beat cycle. DHM also tracks the heads of free-swimming sperm and the dynamics and chirality of rolling of sperm around their long axis. We find that mouse sperm roll CW at the maximum positive Z-plane excursion of the head, then roll CCW at the subsequent maximum negative Z-plane excursion. This alternating chirality of rolling indicates sperm have a chiral memory. Procrustes alignments of path trajectories for sequences of roll-counterroll cycles show that path chirality is always CW for the cells analyzed in this study. Human and bull sperm lack distinguishable left and right surfaces, but DHM still indicates coordination of Z-plane excursions and rolling events. We propose that sperm have a chiral memory that resides in a hypothetical elastic linkage within the flagellar machinery, which stores some of the torque required for a CW or CCW roll to reuse in the following counter-roll. Separate mechanisms control path chirality.


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