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Cytoskeletal Organization of Limulus Amebocytes Pre- and Post-Activation: Comparative Aspects

Mara Conrad, Joanna Denobile, Irina Chaikhoutdinov, Douglas Escribano, Kyeng-Gea Lee and William D. Cohen
Biological Bulletin
Vol. 207, No. 1 (Aug., 2004), pp. 56-66
DOI: 10.2307/1543628
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1543628
Page Count: 11
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Cytoskeletal Organization of Limulus Amebocytes Pre- and Post-Activation: Comparative Aspects
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Abstract

One of the major functions of circulating Limulus amebocytes is to effect blood coagulation upon receipt of appropriate signals. However, the hypothesis that Limulus amebocytes are fundamentally similar to vertebrate thrombocytes and platelets has not been tested sufficiently in previous studies of their cytoskeletal organization. Whereas the earlier data were derived from transmission electron microscopy (TEM) of thin sections of a limited number of cells, improved fluorescence labeling methods that retain cell morphology have now enabled us to survey F-actin and microtubule organization in intact individual amebocytes and in large amebocyte populations pre- and post-activation. Anti-tubulin immunofluorescence showed the marginal band (MB) of microtubules to be ellipsoidal in most unactivated cells, with essentially no other microtubules present. However, minor subpopulations of cells with discoidal or pointed shape, containing corresponding arrangements of microtubules suggestive of morphogenetic intermediates, were also observed. Texas-red phalloidin labeled an F-actin-rich cortex in unactivated amebocytes, accounting for MB and granule separation from the plasma membrane as visualized in TEM thin sections, and supporting earlier models for MB maintenance of flattened amebocyte morphology by pressure against a cortical layer. Shape transformation after activation by bacterial lipopolysaccharide was attributable principally to spiky and spreading F-actin in outer cell regions, with the MB changing to twisted, nuclei-associated forms and eventually becoming unrecognizable. These major pre- and post-activation cytoskeletal features resemble those of platelets and non-mammalian vertebrate thrombocytes, supporting recognition of the Limulus amebocyte as a representative evolutionary precursor of more specialized clotting cell types.

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