AB 4:15-21 (2008)  -  doi:10.3354/ab00092

Kleptoplasts mediate nitrogen acquisition in the sea slug Elysia viridis

Bart Teugels1,*, Steven Bouillon2,3,4,*,**, Bart Veuger3, Jack J. Middelburg3, Nico Koedam1

1Laboratory of General Botany and Nature Management, and 2Department of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
3Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Centre for Estuarine and Marine Ecology (NIOO-CEME), Yerseke 4401, The Netherlands
4Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
*Both authors contributed equally to this work
**Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Kleptoplasty is a remarkable form of symbiosis whereby photosynthetically functional algal chloroplasts are retained by the host organism. Certain sacoglossan sea slugs form such associations and some species such as Elysia viridis (Montagu, 1804) can survive for months without access to their food algae. We report evidence for light-dependent assimilation of ammonium, nitrite, and urea (but not nitrate) in E. viridis with functional kleptoplasts. N uptake was decreased in slugs with reduced chloroplast densities, and after exposure to inhibitors of glutamine synthetase and glutamate synthetase. Incorporation of 15N-labeled substrates was traced into individual hydrolyzable amino acids, with highest incorporation in glutamine-glutamate. N assimilation by kleptoplasts in multicellular hosts constitutes an additional mechanism which may contribute to the unique and long-lived functionality of these symbioses.

KEY WORDS: Kleptoplasty · Nitrogen assimilation · Sacoglossan · Elysia viridis

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Cite this article as: Teugels B, Bouillon S, Veuger B, Middelburg JJ, Koedam N (2008) Kleptoplasts mediate nitrogen acquisition in the sea slug Elysia viridis. Aquat Biol 4:15-21

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