Ferritin Crystals in the Gut Caeca of Stegocephaloides christianiensis Boeck and Other Stegocephalidae (Amphipoda: Gammaridea): A Functional Interpretation
Iron-rich octahedral crystals have been described by the senior author in the gut caeca cells of the amphipod Stegocephaloides christianiensis. The present investigation revealed their presence in other species in the family Stegocephalidae (Bathystegocephalus inflatus, Euandania ingens, Parandania boecki, Stegocephaloides auratus, S. vanhoffeni, Stegocephalus infaltus, Phippsiella spp. and Parandaniexis sp. (cf. mirabilis). Crystals were not found in Andaniopsis nordlandica, Tetradeion crassum or Andaniexis abyssi, although the latter gave a tissue reaction for iron. Fe cells contain only a single crystal each in all species and crystals consistently increased in size proximally in each caecum. The most distal region of the caecum was devoid of crystals. Detailed work was confined to Stegocephaloides christianiensis, Stegocephalus inflatus and Parandaniexis sp. (cf. mirabilis). Caecum ultrastructure of S. christianiensis is described: two cell facies (R/F and B cells) are distinguishable. R/F cells (= Fe cell) are columnar, with a terminal brush-border of long microvilli. Lipid globules, glycogen, Fe crystals and Ca granules are found in these cells. B-cells have a luminal border of short, stubby microvilli with an apical complex of membrane-bound vesicles of varying degrees of coalescence. The composition of the Fe crystals has been described using X-ray microprobe analysis. Strong Fe peaks were revealed together with minor peaks for Si, P, S, Cl, K, Ca, Cu and Zn. These elements were identified in the surrounding cytoplasm also. Crystal composition is homogeneous with no separate core. The crystal consists of hexagonally arranged, electron dense cores of 5.8 ± 0.3 nm diameter at intercore distances of 10.5 ± 0.5 nm, 7.5 ± 0.5 nm and 9.5 ± 0.5 nm. Wide angle electron diffraction analysis of the cores gave four rings with d spacings of 0.250, 0.223, 0.191 and 0.145 nm (all ± 0.003 nm). On these bases the substance of the crystals is identified as ferritin. Ferritin crystals are voided in the faeces of Stegocephaloides christianiensis, suggesting a role in iron excretion, perhaps as part of a body content regulation process. The content of iron in S. christianiensis and a variety of other inshore Amphipoda has been investigated using atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Iron content was non-linearly related to body dry mass in S. christianiensis and cannot simply be explained as a consequence of surface absorption. Iron levels in S. christianiensis were higher than in many other species investigated. The morphology of the mouthparts of S. christianiensis has been investigated using scanning electron microscopy. Analysis of fresh stomach contents revealed cnidarian nematocysts which corresponded in size and form with those from Adamsia carciniopados, Pennatula Phosphorea and Hydractinia echinata. Behavioural observations on live S. christianiensis suggested that Pennatula was a likely prey item. Investigations of a range of Cnidaria and of a few known predators of cnidarians (Pycnogonum, Hyperia) confirmed that the discharged acontia of Adamsia and the soft tissues of Pennatula contained unusually high concentrations of iron. It is proposed that the production and expulsion of ferritin crystals by S. christianiensis and other cnidarian-consuming species in the family Stegocephalidae represents an iron regulation system in animals experiencing a dietary iron challenge.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B
- Pub Date:
- July 1984