To study the properties of tracheal cilia beating under various conditions, we developed a method to monitor the movement of the ciliary tip. One end of a demembranated cilium was immobilized on the glass surface, while the other end was capped with a polystyrene bead and tracked in three dimensions. The cilium, when activated by ATP, stably repeated asymmetric beating as in vivo. The tip of a cilium in effective and recovery strokes moved in discrete trajectories that differed in height. The trajectory remained asymmetric in highly viscous solutions. Model calculation showed that cilia maintained a constant net flux during one beat cycle irrespective of the medium viscosity. When the bead attached to the end was trapped with optical tweezers, it came to display linear oscillation only in the longitudinal direction. Such a beating-mode transition may be an inherent nature of movement-restricted cilia.
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