Colony specificity in Botrylloides leachi. I. Morphological aspects


  • G Zaniolo Department of Biology, University of Padova, Padova, Italy
  • L Manni Department of Biology, University of Padova, Padova, Italy
  • L Ballarin Department of Biology, University of Padova, Padova, Italy


Botrylloides, ascidians, colony specificity, allorecognition


We studied colony specificity in the colonial ascidian Botrylloides leachi which, as in other botryllid
ascidians, leads to either fusion or non-fusion between contacting colonies. Fusion requires the prior
disappearance of contacting tunic cuticles and contact between facing ampullar epithelia. The
epithelial cells of the ampullar tip show “pad regions” rich in ribosomes, which contribute to the
synthesis of new tunic and cuticle. Blood cells, mainly phagocytes and pigment cells, increase their
concentrations inside the ampullar lumen and phagocytes can cross the ampullar epithelium and enter the tunic, where they can contribute to the digestion of tunic cuticles and cells of the ampullar
epithelium in order to establish a common circulation. Non-fusion reaction, as studied in the colony
allorecognition assay, resembles the subcuticular rejection described in Japanese Botrylloides,
characterised by limited tunic fusion, hemocyte leakage, and necrotic spots. Conversely, in the cut
surface assay, a more intense cytotoxic reaction is observed along the contact border. In this case,
morula cells crowd massively inside the facing ampullae, enter the tunic, and release their vacuolar
contents which are probably required for the formation of necrotic spots.






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