Ovarian ultrastructure and vitellogenesis in ten species of shallow-water and bathyal sea cucumbers (Echinodermata: Holothurioidea)

Eckelbarger, K., J.; Young, C., M.

Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 72(4): 759-781


ISSN/ISBN: 0025-3154
Accession: 009144114

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Comparative ultrastructural features of the ovary and vitellogenesis have been described for six shallow water and four bathyal species of sea cucumbers representing four major holothuroid orders. Ovarian structure is similar in all ten species except for features of the peritoneal cells of the outer layer and the follicular inner epithelial cells surrounding the developing oocytes. The peritoneal cells vary from monociliated squamous or cuboidal cells to large columnar cells. Ultrastructural evidence suggests that these cells might be capable of incorporating materials from the perivisceral coelom. The follicular inner epithelial cells of two deep-sea species resemble podocytes, a feature previously unreported in holothuroid ovaries. It is suggested that these cells function to increase nutrient exchange between the genital haemal sinus and the oocyte during vitellogenesis. In all ten species, the oocytes appear to participate in yolk synthesis through the interaction of the Golgi complex and rough endoplasmic reticulum. The similarity in the ultrastructural features of vitellogenesis suggests that the process of yolk synthesis has been highly conserved in holothuroids. Endocytotic activity was detected in seven of ten species but it is uncertain if this is directly related to vitellogenesis. Cilia and intracellular structures resembling striated ciliary rootlets were observed in the oocytes of four of the ten species studied. The significance of this finding is unclear but could indicate that germ cells have a somatic cell origin.