, Volume 111, Issue 1, pp 49-58

Fine structure of the spermatophore and intradermic penetration of sperm cells inMyzostoma cirriferum (Annelida, Myzostomida)

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Summary

The spermatophore ofMyzostoma cirriferum is a white V-shaped structure up to ca. 500 μm long. It is formed by a translucent matrix which includes numerous cysts of two types that are very close together and tend to form interlacing twists. According to their contents, three spermatophoral regions can be distinguished: the body with the horns, the foot and the basal disc. The body-horns region forms the upper part of the spermatophore and extends over ca. 400 μm. This region includes mature spermiocysts which are formed by one cyst cell each including one to three groups of rolled up spermatozoons. Features of these cyst cells are their great length (up to 25 μm), their euchromatic nuclei each provided with a large nucleolus, their numerous mitochondria and osmiophilic vesicles included in the cytoplasm as well as cytoplasmic remnants of the residual bodies of the spermatids. Spermatozoons appear to be well adapted to the intradermic penetration occurring in this species in that all of them possess nuclei provided with dense nuclear grains, a hairpin-bent flagellum and a microtubular palissade. The spermatophore foot is located just below the body and extends over ca. 90 μm. It contains exclusively spermiocysts which include one to three abortive germinal cells. They differ also from the previous cysts by their smaller length (ca. 6–10 μm) and their more heterochromatic nuclei. The basal disc is the lower part of the spermatophore. It extends over ca. 10 μm and contains electron-dense vesicles in its upper part and vesicles with fibrillar material in its lower part. When mature myzostomids contact each other, a spermatophore is expulsed from one seminal vesicle of the donor myzostomid to the integument of the receiver myzostomid. The vesicles with fibrillar content are the first in contact with the cuticle of the receiver myzostomid. The material they include is supposed to have a histolytic action and to be responsible for the lysis of the cuticle and epidermal cells thus providing a passage for the spermatophore contents. Afterwards, cysts move as a result of the spermatozoons' beating and pass through the receiver's integument. At the time of penetration, cytoplasmic membranes of the cyst cells merge together forming an enormous syncytium extending into the whole receiver's body. This syncytium surrounds the spermatozoons and the abortive germinal cells. The whole process of intradermic penetration (i.e. from the fixation of the spermatophore to its reduction to an empty matrix) lasts from 1–5 h.