, Volume 235, Issue 2, pp 309-318

Degenerative regression of the digestive tract in the colonial ascidian Botryllus schlossen (Pallas)

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Degenerative changes in the digestive tract of zooids of Botryllus schlosseri were studied by light and electron microscopy. Three main processes occurred in the tissues: contraction, involution and phagocytosis. The contraction of epidermis and peribranchial epithelium in which cytoplasmic microfilaments probably participate, seemed to have a special role in compressing the underlying organs. During contraction most of the body cavities collapsed, the branchial walls disintegrated and the fragments were rapidly taken up by large phagocytes. The gut epithelium retained its apparent continuity longer, though isolated phagocytes infiltrated it to eliminate single cells. Cell degeneration came about chiefly either through swelling and lysis of cells or through loss of water and condensation of cytoplasm and nucleus.
The fate of all regressed tissues was to be engulfed and digested by wandering phagocytes. However, it was also observed that numerous cells of different epithelia could act as fixed phagocytes by engulfing cell debris and entire cells into heterophagic vacuoles.