Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 337, Issue 1, pp 149–165 | Cite as

Dynamics of cell proliferation and apoptosis reflect different life strategies in hydrothermal vent and cold seep vestimentiferan tubeworms

  • Bettina PflugfelderEmail author
  • S. Craig Cary
  • Monika Bright
Regular Article


Deep-sea vestimentiferan tubeworms, which live in symbiosis with bacteria, exhibit different life strategies according to their habitat. At unstable and relatively short-lived hydrothermal vents, they grow extremely fast, whereas their close relatives at stable and long-persisting cold seeps grow slowly and live up to 300 years. Growth and age differences are thought to occur because of ecological and physiological adaptations. However, the underlying mechanisms of cell proliferation and death, which are closely linked to homeostasis, growth, and longevity, are unknown. Here, we show by immunohistochemical and ultrastructural cell cycle analyses that cell proliferation activities of the two species studied are higher than in any other characterized invertebrate, being only comparable with tumor and wound-healing processes. The slow growth in Lamellibrachia luymesi from cold seeps results from balanced activities of proliferation and apoptosis in the epidermis. In contrast, Riftia pachyptila from hydrothermal vents grows fast because apoptosis is down-regulated in this tissue. The symbiont-housing organ, the trophosome, exhibits a complex cell cycle and terminal differentiation pattern in both species, and growth is regulated by proliferation. These mechanisms have similarities to the up- and down-regulation of proliferation or apoptosis in various types of tumor, although they occur in healthy animals in this study, thus providing significant insights into the underlying mechanisms of growth and longevity.


Symbiosis Cell proliferation Apoptosis Bromodeoxyuridine Vestimentifera Lamellibrachia luymesi Riftia pachyptila (Polychaeta) 



We thank the captains and crews of the R/V Atlantis and DSV Alvin and of the R/V Johnson Seward and DSV Johnson Sea Link II for their continuous support. Technical assistance from S. Adam, U. Hörmann, and D. Gruber, TEM support from W. Klepal (Department of Cell Imaging and Ultrastructure Research, University of Vienna, Austria), and help from E. Cordes and S. Dattagupta are gratefully acknowledged. We are also grateful to C.R. Fisher and S. Katz for critically reading an earlier draft of this manuscript and for their valuable input.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bettina Pflugfelder
    • 1
    Email author
  • S. Craig Cary
    • 2
  • Monika Bright
    • 1
  1. 1.Department Marine Biology, Faculty of Life SciencesUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.College of Marine and Earth StudiesUniversity of DelawareLewesUSA

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