The color of the trophosome: elemental sulfur distribution in the endosymbionts of Riftia pachyptila (Vestimentifera; Siboglinidae)
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- Pflugfelder, B., Fisher, C.R. & Bright, M. Marine Biology (2005) 146: 895. doi:10.1007/s00227-004-1500-x
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Riftia pachyptila Jones, 1981, lives in association with a chemoautotrophic, sulfide-oxidizing γ-Proteobacterium that occurs in a specialized organ, the trophosome. Ultrastructurally different bacterial subpopulations occur in different regions of the trophosome lobules (central rods, median small cocci, peripheral large cocci) and contain vesicles, which have been proposed to be sites of elemental sulfur storage. Differently colored trophosomes have been suggested to reflect different amounts of elemental sulfur in the tissue. In this study, the presence of elemental sulfur (S0) was confirmed in the vesicles of the symbionts of R. pachyptila by electron energy loss spectrography (EELS). The proportion of (two-dimensional) area occupied by sulfur vesicles in the cells was found to be strongly correlated with trophosome color, both in individuals with uniformly colored trophosomes and individuals that exhibited a gradual color change along the length of their trophosomes. Elemental sulfur content was highly variable between individuals from a single collection, suggesting a high degree of microhabitat heterogeneity within vestimentiferan aggregations.