2020-12-26Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/26110
The Pericardial Body of Ciona intestinalis Contains Hemocytes and Degenerating Muscle Cells, But No Parasites
Purpose: A ventral heart positioned posterior to the branchial basket and equipped with a pericardium is homologous in tunicates and their sister group, the craniates, yet the tunicate model organism Ciona intestinalis features a pericardial body, a structure peculiar to few ascidian species. Here, we set out to distinguish between two competing hypotheses regarding the function of the pericardial body found in the literature: (H1) The pericardial body performs a role in the removal of dysfunctional myocardial cells, and (H2) it is a specialized niche of the immune system involved in defense against parasites. Methods: We used histological techniques, transmission electron microscopy, and PCR-based gene sequencing to investigate whether individual ascidians parasitized with apicomplexan protists show signs of infections within the pericardial body. Results: In individuals of C. intestinalis from the German North Sea infested with apicomplexan protists, the pericardial body contains numerous myocardial cells in various stages of degeneration while no remnants of parasitic cells could be identified. Conclusion: Thus, we conclude that H2—the pericardial body is a specialized niche of the immune system involved in defense against parasites—can be refuted. Rather, our observations support H1, the hypothesis that the pericardial body performs a role in the removal of dysfunctional myocardial cells.
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