DAO 49:207-219 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/dao049207

Ultrastructure of a haplosporidian containing Rickettsiae, associated with mortalities among cultured paua Haliotis iris

P. M. Hine1,*, S. Wakefield2, B. K. Diggles1, V. L. Webb1, E. W. Maas1

1National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, PO Box 14-901, Kilbirnie, Wellington, New Zealand
2School of Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington Hospital, Private Bag 7902, Wellington South, New Zealand
*Present address: National Centre for Disease Investigation, MAF Operations, PO Box 40-742, Upper Hutt, New Zealand. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Uninucleate and multinucleate stages of a protozoan parasite are described from cultured abalone Haliotis iris Martyn, 1784 in New Zealand. The parasite is identified as a haplosporidian by the occurrence of multinucleate plasmodia, mitochondria with tubular cristae, lipid droplets, anastomosing endoplasmic reticulum (aER), multivesicular bodies (MVBs), haplosporogenesis by the production of haplosporosome-like bodies from nuclear membrane-bound Golgi, and their maturation to haplosporosomes. Coated pits occurred in the plasma membrane and coated vesicles were scattered in the cytoplasm, particularly in association with the Golgi face away from the nucleus, and aER. It is concluded that the outward face of the Golgi may be the trans face, and that aER is the trans-Golgi network. Coated pits and bristle-coated vesicles are reported from a haplosporidian for the first time. The vesicles in the MVBs resembled the cores and inner membranes of haplosporosomes, without the outer layer. The possible inter-relationships of these features are discussed. The abalone parasite differs from previously described haplosporidians in the apparent absence of a persistent mitotic spindle, and the presence of intracytoplasmic coccoid to rod-shaped bacteria resembling Rickettsiales-like prokaryotes. Phylogenetic analysis of the 16S rRNA gene sequence of the Rickettsiales-like prokaryotes indicated that these organisms belong to the Rickettsia cluster. The prokaryotes have a high (7%) sequence divergence from known Rickettsieae, with Rickettsia sp. and R. massiliae being the closest relatives. The lack of non-molecular evidence prevents us from proposing a new rickettsial genus at this time.

KEY WORDS: Haplosporidian · Intracellular Rickettsiales · Abalone · Haliotis iris · Ultrastructure · Haplosporosomes

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