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Biosens Bioelectron. 2006 Jan 15;21(7):1149-55. Epub 2005 Jun 2.

Novel photoreception system in sponges? Unique transmission properties of the stalk spicules from the hexactinellid Hyalonemasieboldi.

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Institut für Physiologische Chemie, Abteilung Angewandte Molekularbiologie, Universität, Duesbergweg 6, D-55099 Mainz, Germany.


Sponges (phylum Porifera) of the classes Hexactinellida and Demospongiae possess a skeleton composed of siliceous spicules, which are synthesized enzymatically. The longest spicules are found among the Hexactinellida, with the stalk spicules (length: 30 cm; diameter: 300 microm) of Hyalonema sieboldi as prominent examples. These spicules are constructed around a central axial filament, which is formed by approximately 40 siliceous layers. The stratified spicules function as optical glass fibers with unique properties. If free-spaced coupled with a white light source (WLS), the entire fiber is illuminated. Special features of the light transmission: (i) only wavelengths between 615 and 1310 nm can pass through the fibers and (ii) light below wavelengths of 615 nm and above 1310 nm is completely cut-off. The transmission efficiency is around 60% (measured at 1080-1100 nm [length of the fiber: 5 cm]). The spicules acts as sharp high- and low-pass filters, suggesting that these silica-based fibers might be involved in a photoreception system. This assumption is supported by the finding that sponges are provided with a bioluminescent system. It is hypothesized that the spicules/siliceous fibers might be involved in a photoreception system in these animals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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