The motility of cilia and flagella of eukaryotic cells is controlled by second messengers such as Ca(2+), cAMP, and cGMP. In this study, the cAMP-dependent control of flagellar bending of Chlamydomonas is investigated by applying cAMP through photolysis of 4,5-dimethoxy-2-nitrobenzyl adenosine 3',5'-cyclicmonophosphate (caged cAMP). When cAMP is applied to demembranated and reactivated cells, cells begin to swim with a larger helical path. This change is due to a larger turn about the axis normal to the anterior-posterior axis, indicating an increased imbalance in the propulsive forces generated by the cis-flagellum (flagellum nearer to the eyespot) and trans-flagellum (flagellum farther from the eyespot). Consistently, when cAMP is applied to isolated axonemes, some axonemes show attenuated motility whereas others do not. Axonemes from uni1 mutants, which have only trans-flagella, do not respond to cAMP. These observations indicate that cAMP controls the balance of the forces generated by cis- and trans-flagella in Chlamydomonas.