- In the present work we measured in real time the metachronism and degree of correlation between beating cilia from cultured mucociliary epithelium. The method is based on simultaneous measurement of ciliary beat frequency, phase shifts, and correlation factors in two directions: parallel and perpendicular to the effective stroke direction (ESD). From the phase shifts the lengths of wave components, and consequently the metachronal wavelength and direction, were evaluated. On active ciliary areas of cultured frog esophagus under normal conditions, a relatively high degree of correlation is observed, but cilia are more correlated in direction parallel to ESD which is also the direction of the mucus propulsion. The length of the wave component parallel to ESD is more than twice as large as that of the perpendicular component. The metachronal wavelength was found to be in the range of 5–9 μm, and the direction of the wave propagation was in the range of 90°–125° clockwise to the ESD. When ciliary beat frequency was rapidly increased by extracellular ATP or acetylcholine, only minor effects were observed on the degree of correlation between beating cilia. The length of the wave component parallel to ESD showed the most dramatic effect increasing up to tenfold. The perpendicular to ESD component was not affected by the stimulation. Consequently, the metachronism became more laeoplectic with the angle between the ESD and the wave directions decreasing by 10°–30°, and the metachronal wavelength remained unaltered. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.