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Cellular Growth of Host and Symbiont in a Cnidarian-Zooxanthellar Symbiosis

W. K. Fitt
Biological Bulletin
Vol. 198, No. 1 (Feb., 2000), pp. 110-120
DOI: 10.2307/1542809
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1542809
Page Count: 11
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Cellular Growth of Host and Symbiont in a Cnidarian-Zooxanthellar Symbiosis
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Abstract

The hydroid Myrionema ambionense, a fast-growing cnidarian (doubling time = 8 days) found in shallow water on tropical back-reefs, lives in symbiosis with symbiotic dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium (hereafter also referred to as zooxanthellae). The symbionts live in vacuoles near the base of host digestive cells, whereas unhealthy looking zooxanthellae are generally located closer to the apical end of the host cell. Cytokinesis of zooxanthellae occurred at night, with a peak in number of symbionts with division furrows (mitotic index, MI = 12%-20%) observed at dawn. The MI of zooxanthellae decreased to near zero by the middle of the afternoon and remained there until the middle of the next night. Densities of live zooxanthellae living inside of host digestive cells peaked following cytokinesis, whereas densities of unhealthy looking symbionts were highest just before the division peak. Mitosis of host digestive cells was highest in the evening, also preceding the peak in zooxanthellar MI. This is the first study relating phased host cell division to diel zooxanthellar division in marine cnidarians. Food vacuoles were prevalent inside of digestive cells of field-collected hydroids within a few hours after sunset and throughout the night, coinciding with digestion of captured demersal plankton. Laboratory experiments showed that food vacuoles appeared in digestive cell cytoplasm within 2 h of feeding with nauplii of Artemia. The number and size of food vacuoles per digestive cell and the percentage of digestive cells with food vacuoles all decreased 5-7 h following feeding in laboratory experiments, and by mid-day in field-collected hydroids. Light and external food supply were important in maintaining phased division of the symbionts, with a lag in response time to both parameters of 11-36 h. Altering light and feeding during the night did not influence the level of the peak MI the next morning, though in one experiment the absence of light slowed final separation of daughter cells at the end of cytokinesis. In another experiment, hydroids starved for 3-7 d and "pulse-fed" Artemia nauplii for 1 h at the beginning of the dark period showed continued low symbiont division (<5%) after 11 h, whether maintained in constant light or darkness, implying that most algal division is set more than 24 h prior to actual cytokinesis. Transferred to a 14:10 h light:dark cycle for another 24 h (36 h after feeding), the same hydroids exhibited a "normal" peak MI (ca. 15%) at dawn, but zooxanthellae from hydroids kept in constant darkness still showed a low MI. These results show that mitosis of symbiotic dinoflagellates requires three factors: external food; a minimum period of time following feeding (11-36 h), presumably for digestion; and a period of light following feeding, presumably to provide carbon skeletons necessary for completing cytokinesis.

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