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Microsc Res Tech. 2002 Mar 15;56(6):421-34.

Vanadocytes, cells hold the key to resolving the highly selective accumulation and reduction of vanadium in ascidians.

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  • 1Mukaishima Marine Biological Laboratory, Faculty of Science and Laboratory of Marine Molecular Biology, Graduate School of Science, Hiroshima University, Hiroshima 722-0073, Japan.


Since Henze discovered vanadium in the blood (or coelomic) cells of an ascidian in 1911, this unusual phenomenon has attracted the interest of many investigators. The highest concentration of vanadium (350 mM) in the blood cells of Ascidia gemmata, which belongs to the suborder Phlebobranchia, is 10(7) times higher than that in seawater. Of the approximately 10 types of blood cells, a combination of cell fractionation and neutron-activation analysis revealed that the signet ring cells were the true vanadocytes. In the vanadocytes, 97.6% of the vanadium is in the +3 oxidation state (III). The extremely low pH of 1.9 found in vanadocytes suggests that protons, concentrated by an H(+)-ATPase, might be linked to the accumulation of vanadium energetically. The antigen recognized by a monoclonal antibody, S4D5, prepared to identify vanadocytes, was determined to be 6-PGDH in the pentose phosphate pathway. NADPH produced in the pentose phosphate pathway in vanadocytes is thought to participate in the reduction of vanadium(V) to vanadium(IV). During embryogenesis, a vanadocyte-specific antigen first appears in the body wall at the same time that significant accumulations of vanadium become apparent. Three different vanadium-associated proteins (VAPs) were extracted from the blood cells of vanadium-rich ascidians. These are 12.5, 15, and 16 kDa in size and are associated with vanadium in an approximate ratio of 1:16. The cDNA encoding the 12.5 and 15 kDa VAPs was isolated and the proteins encoded were found to be novel. Further biochemical and biophysical characterization of the VAPs is in progress.

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