, Volume 269, Issue 1, pp 167-174

Cellular immunity in an annelid (Nereis diversicolor, Polychaeta): production of melanin by a subpopulation of granulocytes

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We attempted to identify the nature and origin of the pigment produced by the marine worm Nereis diversicolor in order to isolate, in inert brown capsules, foreign objects introduced into its body cavity. This brown pigment, characterized by cytochemical techniques, could be a melanin. The activity of the enzyme phenoloxidase responsible for melanin biosynthesis was detected by enzyme cytochemistry techniques in vacuoles and the Golgi apparatus of coelomocytes activated by the presence of foreign bodies. Morphological techniques combined with a monoclonal immunological probe enabled us to establish that the “G2” granulocytes contain both the precursor of the pigment in dense bodies and the capacity for phenoloxidase synthesis when activated to encapsulate foreign bodies. The “G2” granulocyte may therefore be compared to a melanocyte in which melanin is not stored as in mammals, but immediately extruded following synthesis in the form of a thick fluid.