Effects of metal-based environmental pollutants on tunicate hemocytes

Jane L. Radford, Aimee E. Hutchinson, Monika Burandt, David A. Raftos*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)


Tunicates are filter feeding marine invertebrates that are susceptible to environmental contamination by toxic metals and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. Recently, we have shown that tunicate immune reactions are profoundly affected by exposure to tributyltin (TBT) and copper, both of which are components of marine antifouling paints. This study tests the effects of those pollutants on the hemocytes of tunicates. Immunofluorescence labeling with an anti-hemocyte monoclonal antibody demonstrated that the antigenic structure of the circulating hemocyte population was substantially affected by TBT and copper. Antigen-positive hemocytes were also found to accumulate in the pharyngeal papillae of TBT-exposed tunicates. Histological analyses indicated that this cellular accumulation in pharyngeal papillae involved refractile vacuolated hemocytes. Refractile vacuolated cells from TBT-exposed tunicates also occurred at greater frequencies in the circulating hemolymph, and had altered morphologies, compared to cells from non-treated controls. These data confirm that exogenous metals can have profound effects on the hemocytes of tunicates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-248
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Invertebrate Pathology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Ascidian
  • Copper
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Hemocyte
  • Styela plicata
  • TBT
  • Tributyltin
  • Tunicate

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