Microbial arms race: Ballistic "nematocysts" in dinoflagellates represent a new extreme in organelle complexity


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Urban.Tillmann [ at ] awi.de

Abstract

We examine the origin of harpoon-like secretory organelles (nematocysts) in dinoflagellate protists. These ballistic organelles have been hypothesized to be homologous to similarly complex structures in animals (cnidarians); but we show, using structural, functional, and phylogenomic data, that nematocysts evolved independently in both lineages. We also recorded the first high-resolution videos of nematocyst discharge in dinoflagellates. Unexpectedly, our data suggest that different types of dinoflagellate nematocysts use two fundamentally different types of ballistic mechanisms: one type relies on a single pressurized capsule for propulsion, whereas the other type launches 11 to 15 projectiles froman arrangement similar to a Gatling gun.Despite their radical structural differences, these nematocysts share a single origin within dinoflagellates and both potentially use a contraction-based mechanism to generate ballistic force. The diversity of traits in dinoflagellate nematocysts demonstrates a stepwise route by which simple secretory structures diversified to yield elaborate subcellular weaponry.



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ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
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Eprint ID
44340
DOI 10.1126/sciadv.1602552

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Gavelis, G. , Wakeman, K. , Tillmann, U. , Ripken, C. , Mitarai, S. , Herraz, M. , Özbek, S. , Holstein, T. , Keeling, P. J. and Leander, B. S. (2017): Microbial arms race: Ballistic "nematocysts" in dinoflagellates represent a new extreme in organelle complexity , Science Advances, 3 (e16025) . doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1602552


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