Sydney rock oyster (Saccostrea glomerata) hemocytes: Morphology and function

Saleem Aladaileh, Sham V. Nair, Debra Birch, David A. Raftos*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    130 Citations (Scopus)


    In this study, three major hemocyte types were identified in the Sydney rock oyster. They were characterized primarily by light and electron microscopy based on the presence or absence of granules and nucleus to cytoplasm ratios. Hemoblast-like cells were the smallest cell type 4.0 ± 0.4 μm and comprised 15 ± 3% of the hemocyte population. They had large nuclei and scanty basic cytoplasm. This cell type also had some endoplasmic reticuli and mitochondria. The second major type were hyalinocytes. Hyalinocytes represented 46 ± 6% of all hemocytes. They were large cells (7.1 ± 1.0 μm) that had low nucleus:cytoplasm ratios and agranular basic or acidic cytoplasm. Hyalinocytes had the ability to phagocytose yeast cells and formed the core of hemocyte aggregates associated with agglutination. Four discrete sub-populations of hyalinocytes were identified. The third major cell type were the granulocytes, comprising 38 ± 1% of the hemocyte population. These cells were large (9.3 ± 0.3 μm) and were characterized by cytoplasm containing many acidic or basic granules. Granulocytes were more phagocytic than hyalinocytes and they formed the inner layer of hemocytes during the encapsulation of fungal hyphae. Five discrete sub-populations of granulocytes were identified based on the types of granules in their cytoplasm. Flow cytometry showed that the hemocytes of rock oysters could be divided into between two and four major cell types based on their light scattering properties. The most common of the cell types identified by flow cytometry corresponded to hyalinocytes and granulocytes. Cytochemical assays showed that most enzymes associated with immunological activity were localized in granulocytes. Their granules contained acid phosphatase, peroxidase, phenoloxidase, superoxide and melanin. Hyalinocytes were positive only for acid phosphatase. All of these observations suggest that Sydney rock oysters have a broad variety of functionally specialized hemocytes, many of which are involved in host defense.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)48-63
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Invertebrate Pathology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007


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