Certain species of Chlorella live within the digestive cells of the fresh water cnidarian Hydra viridis. When introduced into the hydra gut, these symbiotic algae are phagocytized by digestive cells but avoid host digestion and persist at relatively constant numbers within host cells. In contrast, heat-killed symbionts are rapidly degraded after phagocytosis. Live symbionts appear to persist because host lysosomes fail to fuse with phagosomes containing live symbionts. Neither acid phosphatase nor ferritin was delivered via lysosomes into phagosomes containing live symbionts, whereas these lysosomal markers were found in 50% of the vacuoles containing heat-killed symbionts 1 h after phagocytosis. Treatment of symbiotic algae before phagocytosis with polycationic polypeptides abolishes algal persistence and perturbs the ability of these algae to control the release of photosynthate in vitro. Similarly, inhibition of photosynthesis and hence of the release of photosynthetic products as a result of prolonged darkness and 3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethyl urea (DCMU) treatment also abolishes persistence. Symbiotic algae are not only protected from host digestive attack but are also selectively transported within host cells, moving from the apical site of phagocytosis to a basal position of permanent residence. This process too is disrupted by polycationic polypeptides, DCMU and darkness. Both algal persistence and transport may, therefore, be a function of the release of products from living, photosynthesizing symbionts. Vinblastine treatment of host animals blocked the movement of algae within host cells but did not perturb algal persistence: algal persistence and the transport of algae may be initiated by the same signal, but they are not interdependent processes.

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