A fine structure study of the anthocodium of the sea pansy, Renilla mülleri, was undertaken. The anthocodium, a known site of bioluminescence, was selected in order to determine whether a structural entity could be found which would satisfy the biochemical and physiological features associated with the known sites of bioluminescence in this animal. These sites, termed lumisomes, have previously been shown to be small (0.1-0.2 mum), membrane-enclosed vesicles which contain all the proteins necessary for bioluminescence and its immediate control. One of the lumisomal proteins is an intensely green fluorescent protein and has been used as a probe for the detection of the cellular sites of bioluminescence. This green fluorescence was associated only with gastrodermal cells. We report the identification of a unique morphological entity, restricted to the cells of the gastrodermis, which satisfies the biochemical and physiological requirements for bioluminescence in Renilla. It is a large (4-6 mum), membrane-bounded subcellular organelle comparable in size to a subcellular structure whose green fluorescence is typically associated with the in vivo bioluminescence. Furthermore, it is filled with smaller membrane-bounded vesicles which have the same size and shape as the lumisomes. We suggest that the organelle identified in this study be termed a luminelle.

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