Quantitative description of fluid flows produced by left-right cilia in zebrafish

Craig Fox, M. Lisa Manning, Jeffrey D. Amack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Motile cilia generate directional flows that move mucus through airways, cerebrospinal fluid through brain ventricles, and oocytes through fallopian tubes. In addition, specialized monocilia beat in a rotational pattern to create asymmetric flows that are involved in establishing the left-right (LR) body axis during embryogenesis. These monocilia, which we refer to as "left-right cilia," produce a leftward flow of extraembryonic fluid in a transient "organ of asymmetry" that directs asymmetric signaling and development of LR asymmetries in the cardiovascular system and gastrointestinal tract. The asymmetric flows are thought to establish a chemical gradient and/or activate mechanosensitive cilia to initiate calcium ion signals and a conserved Nodal (TGFβ) pathway on the left side of the embryo, but the mechanisms underlying this process remain unclear. The zebrafish organ of asymmetry, called Kupffer's vesicle, provides a useful model system for investigating LR cilia and cilia-powered fluid flows. Here, we describe methods to visualize flows in Kupffer's vesicle using fluorescent microspheres and introduce a new and freely available MATLAB particle tracking code to quantitatively describe these flows. Analysis of normal and aberrant flows indicates this approach is useful for characterizing flow properties that impact LR asymmetry and may be more broadly applicable for quantifying other cilia flows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-187
Number of pages13
JournalMethods in cell biology
StatePublished - 2015


  • Automated particle tracking
  • Embryonic development
  • Fluid flows
  • Kupffer's vesicle
  • Left-right patterning
  • Motile cilia
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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