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Spirochete Attachment Ultrastructure: Implications for the Origin and Evolution of Cilia
Biological Bulletin (2010)
  • Andrew M. Wier
  • Luciano Sacchi
  • Michael F. Dolan
  • Claudio Bandi
  • James Macallister
  • Lynn Margulis, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
The fine structure of spirochete attachments to the plasma membrane of anaerobic protists displays variations here interpreted as legacies of an evolutionary sequence analogous to that from free-living spirochetes to undulipodia (eukaryotic “flagella” and homologous structures). Attached spirochetes form a vestment, a wriggling fringe of motile cells at the edge of the plasma membrane of unidentified cellulolytic protist cells in the hypertrophied hindgut of the digestive system of Mastotermes darwiniensis, the large wood-feeding termite from northern Australia. From the membrane extend both undulipodia and a complex of comparably sized (10–12 μm × 0.2–0.3 μm) ectosymbiotic spirochetes that resembles unruly ciliated epithelium. In the intestines are helical (swimming) and round-body morphotypes. Round bodies (RBs) are slow or immotile spirochetes, propagules known to revert to typical swimming helices under culture conditions favorable for growth. The surfaces of both the spirochete gram-negative eubacteria and the parabasalid protists display distinctive attachment structures. The attached hypertrophied structures, some of which resemble ciliate kinetids, are found consistently at sites where the spirochete termini contact the protist plasma membranes.
Publication Date
February, 2010
Citation Information
Andrew M. Wier, Luciano Sacchi, Michael F. Dolan, Claudio Bandi, et al.. "Spirochete Attachment Ultrastructure: Implications for the Origin and Evolution of Cilia" Biological Bulletin Vol. 218 Iss. 1 (2010)
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