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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e48914. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048914. Epub 2012 Nov 8.

Allorecognition triggers autophagy and subsequent necrosis in the cnidarian Hydractinia symbiolongicarpus.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. leo.buss@yale.edu


Transitory fusion is an allorecognition phenotype displayed by the colonial hydroid Hydractinia symbiolongicarpus when interacting colonies share some, but not all, loci within the allorecognition gene complex (ARC). The phenotype is characterized by an initial fusion followed by subsequent cell death resulting in separation of the two incompatible colonies. We here characterize this cell death process using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and continuous in vivo digital microscopy. These techniques reveal widespread autophagy and subsequent necrosis in both colony and grafted polyp assays. Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) assays and ultrastructural observations revealed no evidence of apoptosis. Pharmacological inhibition of autophagy using 3-methyladenine (3-MA) completely suppressed transitory fusion in vivo in colony assays. Rapamycin did not have a significant effect in the same assays. These results establish the hydroid allorecognition system as a novel model for the study of cell death.

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