Amoebocytes facilitate efficient carbon and nitrogen assimilation in the Cassiopea-Symbiodiniaceae symbiosis

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The upside-down jellyfish Cassiopea engages in symbiosis with photosynthetic microalgae that facilitate uptake and recycling of inorganic nutrients. By contrast to most other symbiotic cnidarians, algal endosymbionts in Cassiopea are not restricted to the gastroderm but are found in amoebocyte cells within the mesoglea. While symbiont-bearing amoebocytes are highly abundant, their role in nutrient uptake and cycling in Cassiopea remains unknown. By combining isotopic labelling experiments with correlated scanning electron microscopy, and Nano-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS) imaging, we quantified the anabolic assimilation of inorganic carbon and nitrogen at the subcellular level in juvenile Cassiopea medusae bell tissue. Amoebocytes were clustered near the sub-umbrella epidermis and facilitated efficient assimilation of inorganic nutrients. Photosynthetically fixed carbon was efficiently translocated between endosymbionts, amoebocytes and host epidermis at rates similar to or exceeding those observed in corals. The Cassiopea holobionts efficiently assimilated ammonium, while no nitrate assimilation was detected, possibly reflecting adaptation to highly dynamic environmental conditions of their natural habitat. The motile amoebocytes allow Cassiopea medusae to distribute their endosymbiont population to optimize access to light and nutrients, and transport nutrition between tissue areas. Amoebocytes thus play a vital role for the assimilation and translocation of nutrients in Cassiopea, providing an interesting new model for studies of metabolic interactions in photosymbiotic marine organisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20202393
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1941
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Cassiopea, electron microscopy, NanoSIMS, nutrients, photosynthesis, stable isotope labelling

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