Evolution of distorted pellicle patterns in rigid photosynthetic euglenids (phacus dujardin).
ABSTRACT Members of the euglenid genus Phacus are morphologically differentiated from other photosynthetic species by the presence of a rigid cytoskeleton (pellicle) and predominantly dorsoventrally flattened, leaf-shaped cells. In order to better understand the evolutionary history of this lineage, we used scanning electron microscopy to examine patterns of pellicle strips in Phacus acuminatus, Phacus longicauda var. tortus, Phacus triqueter, Phacus segretii, Phacus pleuronectes, Phacus similis, Phacus pusillus, Phacus orbicularis, Phacus warszewiczii, and Discoplastis spathirhyncha, a putative close relative of Phacus and Lepocinclis. Our observations showed that while the earliest diverging species in our analyses, namely P. warszewiczii, has three whorls of exponential reduction, most members of Phacus have clustered patterns of posterior strip reduction that are bilaterally symmetrical distortions of the radially symmetrical "whorled" patterns found in other photosynthetic euglenids. Comparative morphology, interpreted within the context of molecular phylogenetic analyses of combined nuclear small subunit rDNA and partial nuclear large subunit rDNA sequences, demonstrates that clustered patterns of posterior strip reduction arose after the divergence of Phacus from other photosynthetic euglenids and are the result of developmental processes that govern individual strip length. Clustered patterns of pellicle strips in Phacus do not appear to be adaptively significant themselves; they evolved in association with the origin of cell flattening and cell rigidity, which may be adaptations to a planktonic lifestyle.
- SourceAvailable from: Naoji Yubuki[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Morphostasis of traits in different species is necessary for reconstructing the evolutionary history of complex characters. Studies that place these species into a molecular phylogenetic context test hypotheses about the transitional stages that link divergent character states. For instance, the transition from a phagotrophic mode of nutrition to a phototrophic lifestyle has occurred several times independently across the tree of eukaryotes; one of these events took place within the Euglenida, a large group of flagellates with diverse modes of nutrition. Phototrophic euglenids form a clade that is nested within lineages of phagotrophic euglenids and that originated through a secondary endosymbiosis with green algae. Although it is clear that phototrophic euglenids evolved from phagotrophic ancestors, the morphological disparity between species representing these different nutritional modes remains substantial. We cultivated a novel marine euglenid, Rapaza viridis n. gen. et sp. ("green grasper"), and a green alga, Tetraselmis sp., from the same environment. Cells of R. viridis were comprehensively characterized with light microscopy, SEM, TEM, and molecular phylogenetic analysis of small subunit rDNA sequences. Ultrastructural and behavioral observations demonstrated that this isolate habitually consumes a specific strain of Tetraselmis prey cells and possesses a functional chloroplast that is homologous with other phototrophic euglenids. A novel feeding apparatus consisting of a reduced rod of microtubules facilitated this first and only example of mixotrophy among euglenids. R. viridis also possessed a robust photoreception apparatus, two flagella of unequal length, euglenoid movement, and a pellicle consisting of 16 strips and one (square-shaped) whorl of posterior strip reduction. The molecular phylogenetic data demonstrated that R. viridis branches as the nearest sister lineage to phototrophic euglenids. The unusual combination of features in R. viridis combined with its molecular phylogenetic position completely conforms to the expected transitional stage that occurred during the early evolution of phototrophic euglenids from phagotrophic ancestors. The marine mixotrophic mode of nutrition, the preference for green algal prey cells, the structure of the feeding apparatus, and the organization of the pellicle are outstanding examples of morphostasis that clarify pivotal stages in the evolutionary history of this diverse group of microbial eukaryotes.BMC Evolutionary Biology 03/2012; 12:29. · 3.29 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: We introduce a hypothetical model that explains how surface microtubules in euglenids are generated, integrated and inherited with the flagellar apparatus from generation to generation. The Euglenida is a very diverse group of single-celled eukaryotes unified by a complex cell surface called the "pellicle", consisting of proteinaceous strips that run along the longitudinal axis of the cell and articulate with one another along their lateral margins. The strips are positioned beneath the plasma membrane and are reinforced with subtending microtubules. Euglenids reproduce asexually, and the two daughter cells inherit pellicle strips and associate microtubules from the parent cell in a semi-conservative pattern. In preparation for cell division, nascent pellicle strips develop from the anterior end of the cell and elongate toward the posterior end between two parent (mature) strips, so that the total number of pellicle strips and underlying microtubules is doubled in the predivisional cell. Each daughter cell inherits an alternating pattern of strips consisting of half of the nascent strips and half of the parent (mature) strips. This observation combined with the fact that the microtubules underlying the strips are linked to the flagellar apparatus created a cytoskeletal riddle: how do microtubules associated with an alternating pattern of nascent strips and mature strips maintain their physical relationship to the flagellar apparatus when the parent cell divides? The model of microtubular inheritance articulated here incorporates known patterns of cytoskeletal semi-conservatism and two new inferences: (1) a multigenerational "pellicle microtubule organizing center" (pMTOC) extends from the dorsal root of the flagellar apparatus, encircles the flagellar pocket, and underpins the microtubules of the pellicle; and (2) prior to cytokinesis, nascent pellicle microtubules fall within one of two "left/right" constellations that are linked to one of the two new dorsal basal bodies.Protoplasma 11/2011; 249(4):859-69. · 2.86 Impact Factor
Evolution of Distorted Pellicle Patterns in Rigid Photosynthetic Euglenids
HEATHER J. ESSONa,1and BRIAN S. LEANDERa,b
aDepartment of Botany, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Z4, and
bDepartment of Zoology, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Z4
ence of a rigid cytoskeleton (pellicle) and predominantly dorsoventrally flattened, leaf-shaped cells. In order to better understand the
evolutionary history of this lineage, we used scanning electron microscopy to examine patterns of pellicle strips in Phacus acuminatus,
Phacus longicauda var. tortus, Phacus triqueter, Phacus segretii, Phacus pleuronectes, Phacus similis, Phacus pusillus, Phacus orbic-
ularis, Phacus warszewiczii, and Discoplastis spathirhyncha, a putative close relative of Phacus and Lepocinclis. Our observations
showed that while the earliest diverging species in our analyses, namely P. warszewiczii, has three whorls of exponential reduction, most
members of Phacus have clustered patterns of posterior strip reduction that are bilaterally symmetrical distortions of the radially sym-
metrical ‘‘whorled’’ patterns found in other photosynthetic euglenids. Comparative morphology, interpreted within the context of mo-
lecular phylogenetic analyses of combined nuclear small subunit rDNA and partial nuclear large subunit rDNA sequences, demonstrates
that clustered patterns of posterior strip reduction arose after the divergence of Phacus from other photosynthetic euglenids and are the
result of developmental processes that govern individual strip length. Clustered patterns of pellicle strips in Phacus do not appear to be
adaptively significant themselves; they evolved in association with the origin of cell flattening and cell rigidity, which may be adaptations
to a planktonic lifestyle.
Key Words. Character evolution, cytoskeleton, Discoplastis, morphology, phylogeny.
Members of the euglenid genus Phacus are morphologically differentiated from other photosynthetic species by the pres-
ventrally flattened cells. Most species have an elongated caudal
process and longitudinally arranged pellicle strips (Fig. 1–13).
Several species of Phacus consist of three lobes and are deltoid in
transverse section, while other species have become twisted
around their longitudinal axis in a corkscrew fashion (e.g. Phacus
inflexus and Phacus similis [5P. smulkowskianus Zakrys], Fig. 5;
Huber-Pestalozzi 1955). Molecular phylogenetic analyses have
demonstrated that the genus was polyphyletic, and several species
formerly grouped within Phacus based on light microscopical ob-
servations have subsequently been moved to other rigid photo-
synthetic genera, namely Monomorphina and Cryptoglena (Marin
et al. 2003). The phylogenetic relationships within Phacus sensu
stricto, however, remain poorly understood (Brosnan et al. 2003;
Kosmala et al. 2007; Linton et al. 2000; Marin et al. 2003; Mu ¨llner
et al. 2001; Nudelman et al. 2003; Triemer et al. 2006).
Comparative analyses of morphological data, particularly pell-
icle characters, are expected to help build a phylogenetic frame-
work for understanding the overall diversity of Phacus. Kosmala
et al. (2007) found that characters visible using light microscopy,
such as the presence or absence of transverse struts, were good
taxonomical characters in delimiting Phacus pleuronectes and
Phacus orbicularis. Leander and Farmer (2000a,b, 2001a,b) and
Leander, Witek and Farmer (2001) used scanning and transmis-
sion electron microscopy (SEM and TEM, respectively) to de-
scribe pellicle characters which, when incorporated into cladistic
analyses and compared with molecular data, provided robust in-
ferences about euglenid phylogeny. Their sampling of Phacus,
however, turned out to include only three members of Phacus
sensu stricto: Phacus oscillans, Phacus triqueter, and Phacus
brachykentron (reidentified as Phacus acuminatus; other taxa be-
longed to Lepocinclis and Monomorphina; Leander and Farmer
2001b; Marin et al. 2003; Triemer et al. 2006).
HACUS (Dujardin, 1841) is a morphologically distinctive
clade of photosynthetic euglenids that includes rigid, dorso-
While the leaf-like morphology described by Dujardin (1841) is
predominant in Phacus sensu stricto, a number of Phacus taxa that
are not yet placed in other genera based on phylogenetic analyses
deviate from it in one or more characters. For example,
P. triqueter and Phacus warszewiczii are conspicuously tri-lobed
rather than being dorsoventrally flattened per se (Fig. 8–10; Hub-
er-Pestalozzi 1955; Leander and Farmer 2001b), and P. wars-
zewiczii is illustrated with helically arranged pellicle strips
(Huber-Pestalozzi 1955). Moreover, taxa such as Phacus segretii
(Fig. 7) and Phacus stokesii, lack a caudal process and instead
have rounded posterior ends (Huber-Pestalozzi 1955). Other taxa,
such as Phacus parvulus and Phacus pusillus, are described as
having extremely blunt caudal processes (Huber-Pestalozzi 1955;
Fig. 11). To date, very few of these atypical taxa (P. triqueter,
P. parvulus, and P. pusillus) have been included in molecular or
morphological phylogenetic analyses (Leander and Farmer
2001b; Marin et al. 2003; Triemer et al. 2006).
One pellicle character that has been informative in previous
studies of euglenid evolution and taxonomy is posterior strip re-
duction: patterns formed on the posterior cell surface by pellicle
strips of different lengths (e.g. Leander and Farmer 2000a). The
presence of uniquely modified patterns of posterior reduction in
some species of Phacus indicate that it may be particularly useful
in resolving relationships within the genus and forming inferences
regarding pellicle character evolution (Leander and Farmer
2001b). We were interested in exploring how the unusual cell
shapes observed in Phacus affect the whorled patterns of pellicle
strips that have been characterized in other euglenid lineages. Our
knowledge of Phacus surface morphology is extremely spotty and
in the vast majority of cases, non-existent, and this research takes
the initial steps needed to help illuminate this area of uncertainty.
Because of the complex evolutionary history and developmental
processes underlying the formation of these patterns (Esson and
Leander 2006, 2008), a brief review of their diversity and struc-
ture is included below.
Evolutionary significance of posterior strip reduction. In
addition to a corset of microtubules and a network of endoplasmic
reticulum, the peripheral cytoskeleton of euglenids is reinforced
by 4–120 proteinaceous strips that lie beneath the plasma mem-
brane and extend longitudinally or helically from the anterior
Corresponding Author: H. J. Esson, Department of Botany, Univer-
sity of British Columbia, 6270 University Boulevard, Vancouver, Can-
ada V6T 1Z4—Telephone number: 143 0664 60277 24032; FAX
number: 143 1 4277 9240; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
1Present Address: Max F. Perutz Laboratories, University of Vienna
and Medical University of Vienna. Dr. Bohr-Gasse 9, A-1030 Vienna,
J. Eukaryot. Microbiol., 57(1), 2010 pp. 19–32
r 2009 The Author(s)
Journal compilation r 2009 by the International Society of Protistologists
32 pellicle strips. 2. Phacus pleuronectes. 3. Phacus longicauda var. tortus. 4. Phacus oscillans. 5. Phacus similis. 6. Phacus orbicularis. 7. Phacus
segretii, showing the rounded posterior end of the cell. 8. Phacus triqueter. 9. Phacus warszewiczii. 10. Posterior view of Phacus warszewiczii showing
three lobes of the deltoid shaped cell. 11. Phacus pusillus. 12. Phacus acuminatus, UBC isolate. 13. P. acuminatus (brachykentron), UTEX LB 1317. All
images at same scale (bar520mm).
Scanning electron micrographs showing the diversity of Phacus. 1. Discoplastis spathirhyncha, a closely related lineage to Phacus with
J. EUKARYOT. MICROBIOL., 57, NO. 1, JANUARY–FEBRUARY 2010
canal region to the posterior end of the cell (Leander, Esson and
Breglia 2007). The number of pellicle strips around the cell
periphery is more or less consistent within species and is referred
to using the variable ‘‘P’’ (Leander and Farmer 2000a). In pho-
tosynthetic euglenids, however, some strips are too short to reach
the posterior end of the cell and instead terminate at a certain point
along the length of the cell. The length of any particular strip de-
pends on its relative age: pellicle strips are duplicated and inher-
ited semi-conservatively, where existing strips resume and
terminate growth with each subsequent round of cytokinesis (Es-
son and Leander 2006). Just before cytokinesis, a new strip forms
between every pair of existing strips, and these are the youngest
strips on the pellicle of any cell. The youngest strips are shorter
than all other pellicle strips, while the oldest strips reach the pos-
terior tip of the cell (Bouck and Ngo 1996; Esson and Leander
2006; Hofmann and Bouck 1976; Mignot, Brugerolle, and Bri-
cheux 1987). Younger strips terminate before reaching the poste-
rior tip of the cell and form a radial pattern or ‘‘whorl’’ on the cell
surface. The older strips that lie between the strips forming a
whorl extend either to the posterior tip or to a more posterior
whorl, depending on the relative age of the strips and the degree of
length differentiation in the species (Fig. 14; Esson and Leander
2006, 2008; Leander and Farmer 2000a).
Age-related length differentiation varies between species so
that some species will have strips of two different lengths, while
other species can have up to five different strip lengths (Leander
and Farmer 2000a). The number of posterior whorls, denoted as
‘‘Wp,’’ can therefore be described in terms of the degree of strip
length differentiation in a given species or culture strain. Higher
Wpvalues reflect increased differentiation in strip lengths and are
thought to be the result of changes in developmental timing (i.e.
heterochrony) associated with the termination and resumption of
strip growth during pellicle duplication (Esson and Leander
2006). Some Euglena and Lepocinclis species exhibit length
differentiation within a single whorl, indicating that factors other
than age contribute to strip length (Esson and Leander 2008;
Leander and Farmer 2000a,b).
We studied the pellicle surface patterns of eight additional
Phacus taxa—Phacus acuminatus, Phacus longicauda var. tortus,
P. pleuronectes, P. pusillus, P. orbicularis, P. segretii, P. similis,
and P. warszewiczii—and a close relative of the clade consisting
of Phacus and Lepocinclis, namely Discoplastis spathirhyncha.
By generating several new sequences, we ensured that small sub-
unit (SSU) and partial large subunit (LSU) rDNA sequences were
available from each of these species. This approach enabled us to
(1) improve our understanding of Phacus diversity, (2) interpret
pellicle characters in a molecular phylogenetic context, (3) ex-
amine the significance of pellicle diversity in reconstructing evo-
lutionary trends along the Phacus lineage, and (4) establish a
broader framework for understanding developmental processes
associated with the diversification of the euglenid pellicle.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Culture sources and conditions. Cultures were either pur-
chased from culture collections or grown from single cells isolated
from freshwater sources located in or near Vancouver, Canada
(Table 1). Cultures were maintained in LM7(P. segretii, P. long-
icauda var. tortus, P. acuminatus, P. inflexus, P. pleuronectes,
P. warszewiczii, P. pusillus; ACOI, http://www1.ci.uc.pt/botan
ica/ACOI_M ? 1.htm) or a modified soil water medium supple-
mented with either 1/8 of a pea (P. orbicularis) or vitamin B12(D.
spathirhyncha) (modified from Pringsheim 1946) at 17–181C
with a 12h light:dark cycle.
Scanning electron microscopy and replicate observations.
Cells in culture were placed in a Petri dish whose lid was fitted
with filter paper and fixed using osmium tetroxide vapor as de-
scribed previously (Esson and Leander 2006). Cells were placed
on filters and critical point dried with CO2. Once the filters were
mounted on stubs, cells were coated with either gold or a combi-
nation of gold and palladium. Stubs were viewed on a Hitachi
S4700 SEM (Pleasanton, CA).
While previous surface pattern descriptions (e.g. Leander and
Farmer 2001b) were based on multiple cells with the same char-
acter clearly visible, the flattening and twisting of many Phacus
species results in cells lying in positions where a given character,
especially posterior strip reduction, cannot be clearly viewed in its
entirety. Nevertheless, important information can be collected
from a number of cells and synthesized to provide an accurate
description of a given character. Between 10 and 50 cells were
observed for each taxon, and composite descriptions of relevant
characters were created from these data.
DNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplifi-
cation, and cloning.
Genomic DNA was extracted from
P. acuminatus, P. inflexus, P. longicauda var. tortus, P. orbicu-
laris, P. pleuronectes, P. pusillus, P. segretii, and P. warszewiczii
using either a standard CTAB protocol (Breglia, Slamovits, and
Table1. Taxon names, strain identification, and accession numbers of
sequences used for molecular phylogenetic analyses in this study.
Discoplastis spathirhynchaaSAG 1224-42
(L. buetschlii in Leander
and Farmer 2000a)b
(P. brachykentron in
Leander and Farmer
Phacus longicauda var.
Phacus cf. parvulus
UTEX LB 1311
UTEX LB 1317
UTEX LB 1285
UTEX LB54 via
Triemer et al.
aTaxa for which pellicle surface morphology is described in this study.
bTaxa for which pellicle surface morphology was described by Leander
and colleagues (Leander and Farmer 2001a,b; Leander et al. 2001).
cIsolated from freshwater pond at the University of British Columbia.
dIsolated from freshwater pond near Boundary Bay, British Columbia.
Accession numbers for new sequences are shown in bold type.
ESSON & LEANDER—PELLICLE PATTERNS IN PHACUS
Leander 2007) or the MasterPureTMComplete DNA and RNA
Purification Kit (Epicentre Biotechnologies, Madison, WI). The
PCR was performed using a total volume of 25ml and the PuRe
Taq Ready-To-Go PCR beads kit (GE Healthcare, Buckingham-
shire, UK). Nuclear SSU and LSU rDNA sequences were ampli-
fied on either a PTC-100 Peltier Thermal Cycler or a MJ Mini
Personal Thermal Cycler (Bio-Rad, Hercules, CA) using the fol-
lowing PCR protocol: an initial denaturation stage at 951C for
2min; 35 cycles involving 941C for 45s (denaturation), 50–551C
for 45s (annealing), and 721C for 1.5min (extension); and final
extension at 721C for 5min. Small subunit rDNA sequences were
amplified as one or two fragments using combinations of the
primers listed in Table 2; partial LSU rDNA sequences were am-
plified as one fragment using the primers in Table 2. Bands of the
expected size were excised from agarose gel and cleaned using the
UltraCleanTM15 DNA Purification kit (MO Bio, Carlsbad, CA)
according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Purified sequences
were cloned using the TOPO TA kit (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA).
Plasmids were digested using EcoR1 and inserts were sequenced
using ABI BigDye 3.1 and forward and reverse vector primers.
Sequencing reactions were processed using an Applied Bi-
osystems 3730S 48-capillary sequencer.
Molecular phylogenetic analyses. In addition to the se-
quences we obtained for this study, previously published nuclear
SSU rDNA and LSU rDNA sequences for Phacus strains and
other taxa were acquired from GenBank (Table 1). Sequences
from strains identified as belonging to the same species as our own
cultures (i.e. P. orbicularis, P. pleuronectes, and P. acuminatus)
were included to ensure accurate taxonomic identification (using
light microscopy) of these cultures. New SSU rDNA sequences
ranged in length from 2,110 to 2,208bp; despite many repeated
attempts, only the second half of the SSU rRNA gene (977bp)
was obtained from P. segretii. New LSU sequences ranged in
length from 1,106 to 1,654bp. We performed molecular phylo-
genetic analyses on three alignments that combined SSU rDNA
and partial LSU rDNA sequences: (1) a 24-taxon alignment with
nine outgroup sequences (2,017 sites), (2) a 23-taxon alignment
with nine outgroup sequences and excluding the shorter SSU
rDNA sequence from P. segretii (2,017 sites), and (3) an align-
ment of 15 Phacus spp. with outgroup sequences removed (2,017
sites). The euglenid sequences were pairwise aligned in MacClade
4 (Maddison and Maddison 2000) using an alignment from a pre-
viously published study as our guide (Triemer et al. 2006). Se-
quences were further aligned by eye. Gaps and ambiguously
aligned bases were excluded from all three alignments.
PhyML (Guindon and Gascuel 2003; Guindon et al. 2005) was
used to analyze all three datasets with one heuristic search per
dataset and with maximum-likelihood (ML) using a general-time
reversible (GTR) model of base substitutions (Rodrı ´guez et al.
1990) that incorporated invariable sites and a discrete g distribution
with eight rate categories (GTR1I1G model). The model param-
eters were estimated by PhyML from each of the three original
datasets: 24-taxon alignment (a50.768; i50.348; A50.22914,
C50.24677, G50.30259, T50.22150; Ao-4C51.15579,
(a50.788; i50.353; A50.22959, C50.24616, G50.30201,
T50.22224; Ao-4C51.17369, Ao-4G52.46732, Ao-4
T51.40475, Co-4G50.43655, Co-4T55.50249, Go-4
A50.22822, C50.24627, G50.30132, T50.22418; Ao-4
C50.86600, Ao-4G51.92150, Ao-4T51.23231, Co-4
G50.28591, Co-4T54.92935, Go-4T51.0). The ML boot-
strap analyses were conducted on each alignment with the same
settings described above (i.e. 100 pseudoreplicates; one heuristic
search per pseudoreplicate).
The three alignments were also analyzed with Bayesian meth-
ods using the MrBayes program 3.1.2 (Huelsenbeck and Ronquist
2001; Ronquist and Huelsenbeck 2003). The program was set to
operate with a g distribution, invariable sites and four Monte Car-
lo Markov chains starting from a random tree. A total of 2,000,000
generations was calculated with trees sampled every 50 genera-
tions and with a prior burn-in of 100,000 generations (2,000 sam-
pled trees were discarded; burn-in was checked manually). A
majority rule consensus tree was constructed from 38,000 post-
burn-in trees. Posterior probabilities correspond to the frequency
at which a given node was found in the post-burn-in trees.
In order to rule out alternative topologies that were not recov-
ered in the ML analysis of the 24-taxon alignment, but might
nevertheless be supported by our data, eight additional topologies
to the one generated by the ML analysis were created through
branch swapping in MacClade 4 (Maddison and Maddison 2000);
this yielded nine topologies for comparison. RaxML 7.0.3
(Stamatakis, Ludwig and Meier 2005) was used to determine
site-by-site likelihoods for all topologies using our 24-taxon align-
ment and the settings described above. The approximately unbi-
ased (AU) test was performed using CONSEL 0.1 (Shimodaira
and Hasegawa 2001) to compare the alternate topologies.
Description of clustered reduction. Clustered strip reduction
in various forms appeared in all taxa whose surface morphology
was examined, except for D. spathirhyncha and P. warszewiczii
(Fig. 20, 21). In order to describe the differences in pellicle pat-
terns between taxa, it is helpful to identify the main components
of clustered reduction and compare these patterns to radially sym-
metrical, whorled patterns (Fig. 14–19). The main features of two-
whorled exponential reduction are summarized in Fig. 14, 17.
Clustered reduction (Fig. 16, 18, 19) is a distortion of whorled
reduction that is often associated with dorsoventral cell flattening
in Phacus. Length differentiation between different generations of
strips still results in whorls of reduction, but the ventral and dorsal
strips forming a whorl terminate closer to the posterior tip of the
cell than the lateral strips do, resulting in whorls that are ovoid or
otherwise misshapen rather than circular in outline. Furthermore,
some mature strips that would reach the posterior tip in cells with
regular whorled strip reduction terminate before reaching the pos-
terior tip, forming clusters on either side of the cell (Fig. 15).
The relationship between whorled and clustered strip reduction
is best described in terms of the relative distance of strip termi-
nations from the posterior tip of the cell: the actual differential
length of each strip (Fig. 16). Clustered patterns are derived from
Table2. Primers used in this study for amplification of ribosomal DNA.
SSU primer nameSequence
475 EUGF (forward)
Inf 870R (reverse)
LSU primer name
aPreviously published by Keeling (2002).
bPreviously published by Deane et al. (1998) and Keeling (2002).
cPreviously published by Brosnan et al. 2003.
J. EUKARYOT. MICROBIOL., 57, NO. 1, JANUARY–FEBRUARY 2010
developmental processes whereby strips in a given generation un-
dergo unequal length differentiation, so that some strips terminate
closer to the posterior end of the cell than their co-generational
strips. For example, if dorsal and ventral strips in a whorl of re-
duction extend while the lateral strips belonging to the same whorl
do not, that whorl acquires an ovoid shape. Similarly, if lateral
strips that would normally reach the posterior tip of the cell
shorten while ventral and dorsal tip strips retain their length, clus-
ters are formed from the lateral strips (Fig. 15, 16, 18, 19).
Descriptions of pellicle surface patterns in Discoplastis and
Phacus. Surface patterns and sample sizes for the taxa examined
in this study are summarized in Table 3. Discoplastis spat-
hirhyncha had P532 pellicle strips arranged in a clockwise he-
lix (when viewed from the posterior end). Strips reduced over two
whorls of exponential reduction (Wp52) of 16 and 8 terminating
strips, respectively (Fig. 20). Most cells observed had tips with
four–seven strips instead of the predicted eight, but additional
whorls were never detected—the few additional terminating strips
observed near the posterior tip in some cells did not conform to
any recognizable pattern. Cells gradually tapered over the poste-
rior half to form a sharp caudal process.
Phacus warszewiczii had P532 pellicle strips that were ar-
ranged in an anti-clockwise helix when viewed from the posterior
end (Fig. 10). The helical pitch of the strips was reduced at the
caudal process so that strips were arranged almost longitudinally
(Fig. 10, 21). Strips reduced over three exponential whorls of re-
duction (Wp53), leaving four strips at the posterior tip. Struts
were present on strips until they reached the caudal process (Fig.
Phacus segretii (P532) had more or less longitudinal strips
that began to twist in an anti-clockwise direction near the posterior
end of the cell, which completely lacked a caudal process (Fig. 7).
Two distorted whorls of exponential reduction (Wp52) were ob-
served. The eight strips that comprised the second whorl usually
formed a ‘‘figure eight’’ shape when straight lines were used to
connect the posterior ends of consecutive terminating strips (Fig.
22). In addition to the exponential whorls, there were two addi-
tional terminating strips that were located on opposite sides of the
cell from one another; toward the anterior of the cell and before
strip reduction, these two strips were separated from one another
on both sides by 15 strips.
Phacus acuminatus (P532) had one flattened whorl of expo-
nential reduction. Whorl I strips on the dorsal and ventral sides of
the cell contributed to the short, blunt caudal process and termi-
nated closer to the posterior tip than the lateral whorl I strips.
Additional terminating strips formed a cluster on each side of the
result of length differentiation between pellicle strips of different generations: every alternate strip terminates before reaching the posterior of the cell,
forming a radial pattern (i.e. a whorl) on the posterior cell surface. Because half of the strips terminate on each whorl, this pattern is also referred to as
‘‘exponential’’ strip reduction. A cell with two whorls of strip reduction, for example, has pellicle strips of three lengths: the younger, shortest strips
(black) form the first, anterior whorl of posterior reduction. Slightly longer and older strips (dark gray) form the second whorl of reduction, and the longest
and oldest strips (white) extend to the posterior of the cell. 15, 16. Clustered strip reduction is a modification of whorled reduction (Wp52 or 1) that is
associated with dorsoventral compression of cells. Dorsal and ventral strips belonging to whorl I (black) and whorl II (dark gray) now terminate closer to
the posterior cell tip than co-generational lateral strips do. Furthermore, mature lateral strips (light gray) no longer extend to the posterior cell tip as they
would in whorled reduction, but form clusters of adjacent terminating strips on either side of the posterior tip. 17–19. The relationship between whorled
reduction and different forms of clustered reduction is represented schematically. Dorsoventral compression of a cell with two whorls of exponential
reduction (Wp52; Fig. 17) results in a cell with two whorls of reduction supplemented by lateral clusters (Wp52; Fig. 18). Loss of one of these whorls
yields cells with one whorl of reduction with lateral clusters (Wp51; Fig. 19). Dotted lines indicate the schematic outlines of clustered strips.
Illustrations comparing whorled (ancestral state) and clustered (derived state) posterior strip reduction. 14. Whorled strip reduction is the
ESSON & LEANDER—PELLICLE PATTERNS IN PHACUS
caudal process, leaving five–six strips at the posterior tip of the
cell (Fig. 23, 24). Pellicle strips maintained a longitudinal orien-
tation over the entire cell surface. However, six cells showed a
very slight clockwise twist at the posterior tip.
Phacus similis (P520) had longitudinally oriented strips and
anti-clockwise twisted cells when viewed from the posterior end
of the cell (Fig. 5, 25, 26). Strips reduced over one whorl of ex-
ponential reduction that followed the deformation of the cell.
Some whorl I strips extended down the caudal process near the
posterior tip of the cell, and some terminated further up the cell on
ridges formed by cell flattening and twisting (Fig. 25, 26). Addi-
tional terminating strips formed clusters of one–three strips on one
side of the caudal process and two–four strips on the other side.
The total number of cluster strips on a cell ranged from five to
seven, leaving three–five strips at the posterior tip of the cell. As
with P. acuminatus, some cluster strips terminated so close to the
posterior tip of the cell that the exact number of strips in a cluster
was difficult to determine (Fig. 25).
Phacus pusillus cells had P values ranging from 20 to 26 strips
(Table 3). Pellicle strips were longitudinal to slightly helical until
they reached the posterior end of the cell, where their helical pitch
increased to produce a pronounced anti-clockwise pattern (Fig.
27, 28). Strips reduced over one whorl of reduction that was de-
formed along with cell flattening and twisting. In some cells, con-
secutive terminating strips formed a ‘‘figure eight’’ pattern when
connected by straight lines, similar to whorl II in P. segretii (cf.
Fig. 22, 28). In most cells, five or six strips reached the posterior
tip, leaving four or five clustered strips in cells with P520 (i.e. 20
strips less 10 whorl I strips, less five or six tip strips, leaves four–
five clustered strips) and seven or eight clustered strips in cells
with P526 (Fig. 27, 28).
Phacus pleuronectes (P532) (Fig. 29, 30) and P. orbicularis
(P532) (Fig. 31, 32) each had two flattened whorls of exponen-
tial reduction. Strips were longitudinally oriented along the cell
body and twisted very slightly at the caudal process. Most of the
caudal processes in P. pleuronectes were twisted anti-clockwise
(19 of 21 cells); of these, 12 were twisted anti-clockwise along
part of the process and then clockwise at the posterior tip. In P.
pleuronectes, three–four strips reached the posterior tip of the cell,
leaving two lateral clusters of two–three strips on one side and
three strips on the other (Fig. 29). In P. orbicularis, clusters were
each composed of one or two strips, leaving five–six strips at the
posterior tip of the cell (Fig. 31, 32). Strips were oriented longi-
tudinally down the entire length of the cell; however, the caudal
process often displayed a slight clockwise twist, as viewed from
the posterior end. In P. orbicularis, the strips exhibited robust
Phacus longicauda var. tortus had P532 strips and two flat-
tened whorls of strip reduction (Fig. 33, 34), much like
P. pleuronectes and P. orbicularis. Strips were oriented longitu-
dinally along the cell and anti-clockwise at the cell posterior end;
the cell body itself was twisted in a slight anti-clockwise helix.
Whorls I and II were distorted due to twisting of the cell (Fig. 34).
Whorl I strips terminated before reaching the long, thin caudal
process, while whorl II strips extended slightly past the base of the
caudal process (Fig. 33). Clusters of one–two strips on one side
and two–three strips on the other side of the cell were present (Fig.
34). Additional terminating strips along the extremely narrow
caudal process resulted in only two–three strips reaching the sharp
posterior tip of the cell (Fig. 33). Transverse struts were present on
pellicle strips over most of the cell but not the caudal process (Fig.
34); the struts were less well defined than those in P. warszewiczii
and P. orbicularis.
Phylogeny of Phacus as inferred from SSU and LSU
rDNA. The ML and Bayesian analyses of all three alignments
produced very consistent results, and several phylogenetic rela-
Table3. Summary of novel pellicle surface characters described in this study.
Pellicle surface characters
Number of strips around
cell periphery (P)
Number of posterior
tip strips (T)
Number of strips
in lateral clusters
32 (31, 33) (8/n510)
Clockwise helical (18/n518)
32 (30) (8/n510)
4–5 and 5–6, n0514
Phacus longicauda var. tortus
32 (28, 29) (3/n55)
Longitudinal followed by anti-clockwise
posterior twist (18/n518)
1–2 and 2–3, n055
Longitudinal followed by slight clockwise
posterior twist (29/n529)
1 and 1–2, n0512
32 (30, 35, 36, 39, 40, 42)
Longitudinal followed by a slight anti-
clockwise posterior twist (31/n531)
2–3 and 3, n0523
20, 22, 23, 24, 26 (n57)
Longitudinal followed by anti-clockwise
posterior twist (39/n539)
1–4 and 2–5, n0526
32 (29, 30) (21/n524)
Longitudinal followed by posterior anti-
clockwise twist (31/n531)
6 (5, 7), (20/n526)
1 and 1 (110, 11111)
20 (24) (15/n519)
Longitudinal with anti-clockwise-twisted
1–3 and 2–4, n0539
Anti-clockwise followed by longitudinal
Alternate character states are indicated in brackets after the most frequently observed character state. Where character states could be observed directly, the number of cells displaying that state
are shown as a fraction of the total sample size for that character, n. Where character states are composite reconstructions, the number of cells observed to arrive at that synthesis is given as n0.
J. EUKARYOT. MICROBIOL., 57, NO. 1, JANUARY–FEBRUARY 2010
tionships were repeatedly recovered with robust statistical sup-
port, such as the monophyly of the genus Phacus (Fig. 35; results
from the analyses of the 15-taxon-unrooted alignment not shown).
The nearest sister group to the Phacus clade was a well-supported
clade consisting of Lepocinclis species. The early divergence of P.
warszewiczii from the other Phacus species, and a clade consist-
ing of P. longicauda var. tortus and P. triqueter, were also
strongly supported in the analyses of all three datasets (Fig. 35).
A subclade of Phacus consisting of P. oscillans, P. similis, P. in-
flexus, P. parvulus, and both strains of P. pusillus—the so-called
‘‘oscillans clade’’ (after Marin et al. 2003)—was also recovered
with high support in all analyses. The oscillans clade, in turn,
consisted of two strongly supported subclades: (1) P. oscillans,
P. similis, and P. inflexus, and (2) P. parvulus and both P. pusillus
strains. The position of the oscillans clade within the genus was
essentially unresolved with our data, but did form a strongly sup-
ported clade (posterior probability50.95) with P. acuminatus in
the Bayesian analysis of the 23-taxon dataset (data not shown).
Of the nine alternative phylogenies subjected to the AU test,
four could not be rejected. One of these was the topology shown in
Fig. 35, which was ranked as the second most probable topology
(P50.514) The topology with the greatest statistical support
(P50.558) differed from that shown in Fig. 35 by placing
P. acuminatus and P. pleuronectes together as a sister clade to
the oscillans clade. The third best-supported topology (P50.491)
included sister relationships between P. triqueter and P. wars-
zewiczii and P. pleuronectes and P. segretii, respectively. The
fourth topology (P50.489) placed P. acuminatus together with
the oscillans clade in a larger clade; this was the sister clade to a
clade comprised of P. pleuronectes and P. orbicularis in a sister
relationship with P. segretii.
A molecular phylogenetic framework for Phacus. Although
some of the deepest branches within Phacus were not consistently
recovered or highly supported in our molecular phylogenetic an-
alyses, several conclusions can be drawn from these trees. Phacus
as it is currently defined, is monophyletic and all taxa used in this
study that have been classified as Phacus should remain in the
genus. Phacus warszewiczii is among the earliest diverging
Phacus species, a conclusion reinforced by the morphological
data (discussed below). Both ML and Bayesian analyses of all
three alignments indicate that P. longicauda var. tortus and
two whorls of exponential strip reduction (Wp52) and 32 strips around the cell periphery (P532) (bar52mm). Inset: high-magnification scanning
electron micrograph showing transverse strut-like striations on the pellicle strips (bar50.5mm). 21. Phacus warszewiczii has three whorls of exponential
reduction on the caudal process (Wp53). Transverse struts (arrowheads) are present on the pellicle strips (bar52mm). 22. Phacus segretii has two
whorls of exponential strip reduction (Wp52); whorl I is slightly distorted, and whorl II forms an asymmetrical ‘‘figure eight’’ shape when adjacent
terminating strip are connected by straight lines. Two additional strips (arrows) terminate on opposite sides of the cell (bar52mm).
Posterior strip reduction in Discoplastis spathirhyncha, Phacus warszewiczii, and Phacus segretii. 20. Discoplastis spathirhyncha has
ESSON & LEANDER—PELLICLE PATTERNS IN PHACUS
acuminatus (P532) showing a flattened whorl of strip reduction (asterisks) and symmetrical lateral clusters of four terminating strips (arrows)
(bar55mm). 24. Lateral view of P. acuminatus, showing whorl I strips (asterisks) extending up the dorsal/ventral surfaces of the caudal process and one
lateral cluster of four terminating strips (arrows) (bar53mm). 25. A lateral view of Phacus similis (P520) showing a distorted whorl of strip reduction
(asterisks, white line) and a lateral cluster of three or four terminating strips (arrows). The posterior-most terminating strip (left arrow) is a tip strip
effectively shortened by cell twisting (bar54mm). 26. A lateral view of P. similis showing a distorted whorl of strip reduction and two clustered strips
(right arrows) (bar53mm). 27. A view of Phacus pusillus (P520–26) showing a distorted whorl extending down the ventral or dorsal surface of the cell
and a cluster of four terminating strips (lower arrows). The upper arrow indicates a terminating strip belonging to the cluster on the other side of the cell
(bar52mm). 28. Posterior view of P. pusillus showing a figure eight-shaped whorl of reduction and two clusters (arrows) consisting of one and three
terminating strips, respectively (bar52mm).
Phacus species with clustered strips associated with one whorl of exponential strip reduction (Wp51). 23. Posterior view of Phacus
J. EUKARYOT. MICROBIOL., 57, NO. 1, JANUARY–FEBRUARY 2010
P. triqueter are closely related to one another despite their some-
what divergent morphology (Fig. 3, 8). However, the long
branches associated with these taxa might be prone to long-branch
attraction artifact, so we interpret these results with caution. The
precise phylogenetic position of P. segretii within Phacus, an-
other morphologically derived taxon with long branches in our
molecular analyses, also proved elusive, but there was high sup-
port for a sister relationship between P. segretii and P. pleur-
onectes in Bayesian analyses of the 24-taxon and 15-taxon
alignments (data not shown).
A close relationship between P. pleuronectes and P. orbicularis
was never recovered in ML or Bayesian analyses. Support for the
positions of P. pleuronectes and P. orbicularis within Phacus,
however, was low in all of our phylogenetic analyses, and one of
the four topologies that could not be rejected based on the AU test
included a clade comprised of P. pleuronectes and P. orbicularis.
The close phylogenetic position of P. parvulus (ASW 08060)
with P. pusillus sequences suggests that this strain, or perhaps one
or both of the P. pusillus strains, might be misidentified. None-
theless, the ‘‘oscillans clade,’’ consisting of P. oscillans, P. simi-
lis, P. inflexus, both P. pusillus strains, and P. parvulus, was
recovered with high support in all analyses. This is consistent with
previously published SSU rDNA and SSU/LSU rDNA phyloge-
nies where any combination of these taxa invariably branched to-
gether to the exclusion of other Phacus taxa (Brosnan et al. 2003;
Kosmala et al. 2007; Marin et al. 2003; Triemer et al. 2006).
Moreover, the sister relationship between P. acuminatus and the
oscillans clade in some analyses reinforces the comparative mor-
phological data discussed below.
Evolution of clustered strip reduction patterns in Phacus.
Clustered reduction was originally described in a strain of
P. acuminatus (brachykentron; UTEX LB 1317) with one whorl
of exponential reduction (Wp51) (Leander and Farmer 2001b).
Before the present study, clustered reduction had not been ob-
served in any other species of euglenid, even in the other two
Phacus species previously examined: P. oscillans has a single
additional terminating strip, while P. triqueter was reported as
possessing three distorted whorls of exponential reduction (Lean-
der and Farmer 2001b). Our SEM data show that clustered reduc-
tion is in fact widespread within Phacus (Fig. 36). Its absence in
P. warszewiczii indicates that clustered reduction was derived af-
ter the divergence of the genus from a photosynthetic ancestor
with two or three whorls of strip reduction (Wp52–3) (Fig. 36,
37). This character state is shared with D. spathirhyncha and all
members of Lepocinclis for which posterior reduction has been
described, with the exception of L. salina (Conforti and Tell 1983;
Leander and Farmer 2000a; Leander et al. 2001). We have shown
that clustered reduction can be associated with two whorls of
strip reduction (Wp52) as well as with one whorl of strip reduc-
tion (Wp51) (Fig. 37). The phylogenetic distribution of taxa
with two-whorled clustered reduction suggests that this state
evolved before Phacus taxa with a single whorl and clustered re-
duction, which is limited to P. acuminatus and members of the
oscillans clade (Fig. 36, 37). Because of the low statistical support
for some branches within the Phacus clade, this inference remains
essentially untested using the current molecular phylogenetic
The clusters of strips described in P. acuminatus by Leander
and Farmer (2001b) were symmetrical—each cluster was com-
prised of four terminating strips positioned laterally on the cell.
None of the species with clustered reduction described in this
study had consistently symmetrical clusters, and most had con-
sistently asymmetrical clusters. Members of the oscillans clade
had particularly exaggerated asymmetry: the smaller cluster in
P. pusillus was sometimes comprised of one strip; the additional
terminating strip observed in P. oscillans (Leander and Farmer
2001b) appears to be the only remnant of the clusters that were
present in its ancestors (Fig. 36, 37).
Clustered reduction has also been minimized in P. segretii and
P. triqueter. We interpret the two additional terminating strips in
P. segretii as vestigial clusters (Fig. 37); they do not belong to
either whorl I or whorl II and are therefore relatively mature strips.
Furthermore, their location opposite one another is reminiscent of
the location of lateral clusters of strip reduction observed in other
taxa. Phacus triqueter, on the other hand, has distorted whorls but
lacks strip clusters per se. Reexamination of electron micrographs
used in a previous study (Leander and Farmer 2001b), combined
with the distribution of character states inferred from the present
study (Fig. 36), suggest that this taxon actually has two whorls of
exponential reduction and several other terminating strips along
the narrow caudal process, rather than three whorls of reduction.
Although P. triqueter and P. warszewiczii share a deltoid cell
shape, the three whorls on P. warszewiczii are positioned on or
near the caudal process and thereby avoid distortion by the pro-
nounced deltoid shape of the cell. The whorls in P. triqueter are
comprised of some strips that terminate on the caudal process and
other strips that terminate further up the cell body, resulting in
distorted whorls (see Fig. 4b in Leander and Farmer 2001b). This
distortion is considered to be a vestige of the clustered reduction
present in P. triqueter’s inferred ancestor (Fig. 36, 37).
The vestiges of clustered strip reduction in P. oscillans,
P. segretii, and P. triqueter raise some questions regarding the
developmental origins of clustered reduction. While clusters and
whorl distortion are related to dorsal–ventral flattening in Phacus,
there appear to be other factors leading to the development and
evolution of these patterns. Phacus segretii and P. oscillans have
rounded cells that do not pose any spatial restrictions on strips at
their posterior ends that would necessitate clustered reduction (i.e.
a modification of the ‘‘optimal packing hypothesis’’ as proposed,
and somewhat refuted, by Leander et al. 2001). Similarly, the
three-lobed cells of P. triqueter do not, in and of themselves, re-
quire distorted whorls, as P. warszewiczii clearly demonstrates
(Fig. 37). Phacus pusillus, moreover, has clusters located on its
ventral and dorsal surfaces, rather than its lateral margins, where
space should be more restricted. It is possible that further taxon
sampling will demonstrate Phacus species that have lost all traces
of clustered reduction, indicating that as the degree of dorsoven-
tral flattening is decreased, clusters of reduction are lost. On the
other hand, flattened and twisted heterotrophic euglenids, such as
Heteronema spirale, a bacteriovore that completely lacks poste-
rior strip reduction (Breglia, pers. commun.), show that there must
be other factors underlying the complex length differentiation
patterns observed in Phacus and other photosynthetic euglenids.
The presence of clustered strip reduction in Phacus, but not in
other photosynthetic taxa, suggests that there are developmental
processes governing differential strip length that are peculiar to
this genus of rigid cells. Scanning electron microscopy studies
similar to those previously undertaken (e.g. Esson and Leander
2006) should be integrated with previous observations of cell di-
vision in Phacus (Pochmann 1942) to better understand the inter-
action between bilateral symmetry and other developmental
stages in pellicle duplication and cytokinesis, such as the place-
ment of cleavage furrow strips (Esson and Leander 2006).
Two culture strains identified as the same species (i.e.
P. acuminatus/brachykentron UTEX LB 1317 and P. acuminatus
UBC) have similar, but not identical, patterns of strip reduction.
Both strains have one whorl of exponential reduction supple-
mented by lateral clusters, but the clusters in the UTEX strain are
symmetrical (Leander and Farmer 2001b), while the clusters in
the UBC strain appear to be asymmetrical in most cells. Further-
more, the strips are arranged in a conspicuous clockwise helix at
the tip of the caudal process in the UTEX culture (see Fig. 5g in
ESSON & LEANDER—PELLICLE PATTERNS IN PHACUS
Leander and Farmer 2001b), while in the UBC culture a longitu-
dinal orientation is maintained in most cells. These differences,
and indeed all differences in posterior strip reduction described in
this study, particularly cluster strip distribution, may eventually
prove to be useful characters for taxonomic delimitation. They
require SEM to observe, however, which may be impractical for
some ecological/biogeographical studies where the use of such
taxonomic characters would be desirable.
J. EUKARYOT. MICROBIOL., 57, NO. 1, JANUARY–FEBRUARY 2010
Evolution of other pellicle surface characters in Phacus.
The evolution of total strip number (P) in euglenids has previously
been described in terms of behavioral ecology (i.e. a large P value
facilitates metaboly via sliding between pellicle strips and, there-
fore, allows ingestion of large prey) and developmental processes
(i.e. pellicle duplication combined with failure to divide has re-
subunit and partial large subunit rDNA sequences. Maximum Likelihood bootstrap values above 55 are shown above the branches; Bayesian posterior
probabilities above 0.80 are shown below the branches. Values shown in italics indicate where exclusion of Phacus segretii from the phylogenetic
analyses resulted in improved statistical support. The dash (-) indicates a branch that was not recovered in the 24-taxon Bayesian analysis.
Rooted Maximum Likelihood tree of Phacus species and related photosynthetic euglenids (24-taxa total) inferred from combined small
pleuronectes (P532) showing two dorsoventrally flattened whorls of strip reduction. Strips belonging to whorl I (outlined in white) do not extend down
the caudal process, while strips belonging to whorl II (outlined in black) do extend down the caudal process. Lateral clusters are formed by three
terminating strips on either side of the caudal process (arrows) (bar55mm). 30. Lateral view of P. pleuronectes showing the positions and lengths of two
cluster strips (arrows) relative to whorl I strips (asterisks) and whorl II strips (}) (bar55mm). 31. Lateral view of Phacus orbicularis (P532) showing
two flattened whorls of strip reduction and one extra terminating strip (arrows) on both sides of the caudal process. Transverse struts (arrowheads) are
present on pellicle strips (bar510mm). 32. View of the posterior end of P. orbicularis showing the relative positions and lengths of whorl I strips
(asterisks), whorl II strips (}), and one extra terminating strip (arrow). Note that whorl II strips extend along the caudal process (bar55mm). 33. Lateral
view of Phacus longicauda var. tortus (P532) showing a long, twisted caudal process. Whorl I strips (asterisks) terminate anterior to the caudal process,
while whorl II strips (?) occupy the base of the caudal process. Extra terminating strips (arrows) are also shown (bar55mm). 34. Posterior view of P.
longicauda var. tortus showing an extremely flattened and twisted whorl I (white lines); whorl II (black lines) is distorted. Cluster strips (arrows) are
arranged asymmetrically with two strips on one side of the caudal process and one strip on the other. Transverse struts (arrowheads) are visible on most
strips but are absent on the caudal process and the most posterior region of the cell body (bar55mm).
Phacus species with clustered strips associated with two whorls of exponential strip reduction (Wp52). 29. Posterior view of Phacus
ESSON & LEANDER—PELLICLE PATTERNS IN PHACUS
sulted in several ‘‘strip doubling’’ events throughout euglenid
evolution; conversely, division combined with failure to duplicate
the pellicle results in ‘‘strip halving’’ events) (Leander 2004,
Leander et al. 2001, 2007). Photosynthesis originated in euglenids
via a secondary endosymbiotic event involving eukaryovorous
euglenids and green algal prey cells (Gibbs 1978; Leander 2004;
Leander et al. 2007). In rigid photosynthetic euglenids like
Phacus, behavioral and other locomotive requirements associ-
ated with predatory modes of feeding (e.g. gliding motility and
metaboly) are no longer selected for. This could be one reason
why many members of the Phacus and Lepocinclis clades have a
relatively low number of strips (P ? 32).
With a few exceptions (such as the larger, semi-rigid
Lepocinclis helicoideus [P580] [Leander and Farmer 2000b]
and the taxa with P520 strips described here), members of the
Phacus and Lepocinclis clades possess P532 strips (Fig. 36, 37;
Leander et al. 2001). The taxa examined in this study, with the
exception of the members of the oscillans clade, all have P532
strips—including D. spathirhyncha, which forms the sister lin-
eage of the clade comprising Lepocinclis and Phacus in some
phylogenies (Marin et al. 2003) (Fig. 36). While D. spathirhyncha
shares other morphological features with members of this clade
(i.e. multiple disc-shaped plastids lacking pyrenoids; Triemer et
al. 2006), further molecular and morphological work are required
to more robustly resolve its relationship to these taxa (Triemer et
al. 2006). Because P520 strips is shared by all members of the
oscillans clade whose surface morphology has been described (i.e.
P. oscillans, P. pusillus, and P. similis), it may be regarded as a
synapomorphy for this clade. It is interesting to note, however,
that the P values recorded for P. pusillus in this study have a wider
range than those recorded for other taxa (Table 3).
Transverse struts were present on the pellicle strips in three of
the taxa described in this study: P. warszewiczii, P. longicauda
var. tortus, and P. orbicularis. Leander and Farmer (2001b) also
observed struts in P. triqueter and to a much lesser degree in
L. tripteris. Because the relationships between these Phacus
species are unresolved and L. tripteris is the only Lepocinclis
species in which struts have been observed, it is impossible to
make conclusive statements about the evolution of this charac-
ter at this time. However, the presence of struts in both genera
suggests that it was present in the most recent common ancestor
of both Phacus and Lepocinclis (Fig. 36). Moreover, we ob-
the combined small subunit/large subunit rDNA phylogenetic analyses and
comparative morphology (see Fig. 37). Position 0: the number of strips
around the cell periphery stabilizes at 32 (P532); cells have two whorls
of posterior reduction (Wp52) and are capable of metaboly. Position
1: rigid cells with helically arranged strips, a caudal process, and two or
three undistorted, exponential whorls of strip reduction (Wp52 or 3) de-
marcate the origin of Phacus. Position 2: potential acquisition of an ad-
ditional whorl of posterior reduction (Wp53) and deltoid cell shape.
Position 3: the origin of longitudinal strip orientation, dorsoventral cell
compression, and clustered reduction associated with two whorls of ex-
ponential reduction. Position 4: whorls of posterior strip reduction twisted.
Position 5: deltoid cell shape secondarily prominent and clusters reduced
or lost. Position 6: loss of the caudal process and reduction of clusters.
Position 7: secondary loss of one whorl of posterior reduction. Position
8: secondary loss of one whorl of posterior reduction. Uneven strip re-
duction event from P532 strips, resulting in cells with P520 strips.
Cells within the oscillans clade acquired stronger asymmetry in cluster
distribution, and posterior reduction patterns became twisted.
Hypotheses of character evolution in Phacus as inferred from
patterns in Phacus (see Fig. 36). Taxon names with a given pattern are
shown at the bottom of each box. The most recent ancestor of Phacus
likely possessed a rigid pellicle and undistorted whorled reduction (Wp52
or 3) (position 1). These cells gave rise to both the deltoid cell shape and
three whorls as seen in Phacus warszewiczii (Wp53; position 2) and flat-
tened cells with two whorls and clustered strip reduction (Wp52) similar
to those described here for Phacus pleuronectes and Phacus orbicularis
(center) (position 3). Modification of this latter type of posterior strip re-
duction resulted in the remaining distortions described in this study. For
instance, twisting of the cell and exaggerated elongation of the caudal
process produced the misshapen whorls and extra terminating strips ob-
served in Phacus longicauda var. tortus (top, center) (position 4). A sec-
ondary modification of the strip clusters associated with a prominent
deltoid cell shape resulted in the pattern observed in Phacus triqueter
(upper right) (position 5). Loss of the caudal process and reduction of strip
clusters resulted in the pattern observed in Phacus segretii (right, second
from top) (position 6). Loss of one whorl resulted in the pattern observed
in Phacus acuminatus (right, second from top) (position 7). Comparative
morphology indicates that this condition might be ancestral to the patterns
of strip reduction observed in the oscillans clade (position 8). The absence
of one whorl of strip reduction (like that in P. acuminatus), a reduction in
the overall number of strips (P520, rather than 32), and increased asym-
metry of the strip clusters produced the strip reduction patterns found in
the oscillans clade (bottom) (position 8). Twisting of the flattened ances-
tral cell resulted in the distorted whorls observed here in Phacus pusillus
and Phacus similis (bottom right and center).
Illustration of the evolution of distorted posterior reduction
J. EUKARYOT. MICROBIOL., 57, NO. 1, JANUARY–FEBRUARY 2010
served fine, strut-like striations on the pellicle strips of D. spat-
hirhyncha, which suggests that this feature evolved before the
most recent common ancestor of Discoplastis, Lepocinclis, and
With the exception of P. warszewiczii, most Phacus taxa have
longitudinally arranged strips over most of the cell surface and a
twisted caudal process. As previously observed by Leander and
Farmer (2001b), however, the handedness of the posterior twist
varies between taxa. Some taxa, such as P. acuminatus (brachy-
kentron) and P. oscillans, exhibit a clockwise helix when viewed
from the posterior end; other taxa, such as P. triqueter, P. long-
icauda, and P. pusillus, have an anti-clockwise helix. Our obser-
vations affirm the observations by Leander and Farmer (2001b)
that handedness of pellicle strip orientation is not phylogenetically
informative. Members of the well-resolved oscillans clade have
both clockwise and anti-clockwise helices, and there is no certain
relationship between the few taxa that exhibit a clockwise twist
(i.e. P. orbicularis, P. oscillans, P. acuminatus, and D. spat-
hirhyncha). Based on previous developmental research regarding
the semi-conservative nature of pellicle duplication (e.g. Bouck
and Ngo 1996; Hofmann and Bouck 1976; Mignot et al. 1987),
Leander and Farmer (2001b) hypothesized that there should be
developmental constraints on the handedness of pellicle strip ori-
entation. Similar studies using strains of Phacus, given the com-
bination of pellicle rigidity and the usual change in strip
orientation at the cell posterior in this genus, could be particu-
larly informative regarding developmental mechanisms for the
evolution of different strip orientations.
Based on the molecular and morphological data presented here,
Phacus shares with its sister genus Lepocinclis the widespread
possession of a semi-rigid or rigid pellicle with P532 pellicle
strips. Furthermore, molecular phylogenetic support and the pres-
ence of 32 pellicle strips in the metabolic taxon D. spathirhyncha
suggest that Discoplastis is the sister taxon to the clade formed by
Phacus and Lepocinclis. Patterns of clustered strip reduction are
common in Phacus; however, they evolved after the divergence of
P. warszewiczii and are not, therefore, considered a synapomor-
phy for the genus.
The posterior strip reduction patterns described in this study
suggest that other, unknown factors contribute to strip length
differentiation, which has previously been explained in terms of
strip maturity (Esson and Leander 2006) and position relative to
parental strips (Esson and Leander 2008). Strip clusters and strips
that terminate outside of any particular exponential whorl are
comprised of mature strips belonging to different generations that
nevertheless terminate sooner than their co-generational strips on
the ventral and dorsal cell surfaces. The presence of these clusters
does not always appear to be directly correlated with cell flatten-
ing and twisting and often reflect modifications of ancestral states
within the group. Therefore, distorted patterns of pellicle strips
offer important insights into the development and evolutionary
history of the cytoskeleton in Phacus, and have the potential to
make contributions to our understanding of the overall diversifi-
cation of the eukaryotic cell.
We wish to thank S. A. Breglia for performing SEM on
D. spathirhyncha, M. Hoppenrath for collection of P. orbicular-
is, C. Chantangsi for his help in primer design, amplification of the
SSU rDNA of P. segretii, and execution of phylogenetic analyses,
S. Rueckert for her assistance with the literature, and E. Gill and
A. Horak for performing AU tests. The unpublished LSU rDNA
sequence of P. triqueter was generously provided by R.E. Trie-
mer. E.W. Linton provided a comprehensive combined SSU and
LSU rDNA alignment of photosynthetic euglenids from a previ-
ous study, greatly facilitating our molecular analyses. Three anon-
ymous reviewers significantly improved the clarity of this
manuscript. This research was supported by grants to B. S. L.
from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of
Canada (NSERC 283091-04) and the Canadian Institute for Ad-
vanced Research, Program in Integrated Microbial Biodiversity;
H.J.E. was also supported by a UBC Graduate Fellowship. This
manuscript was submitted by H.J.E. in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the Ph.D. degree, University of British Colum-
bia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
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Received: 03/26/09, 07/24/09; accepted: 07/26/09
J. EUKARYOT. MICROBIOL., 57, NO. 1, JANUARY–FEBRUARY 2010