Epidermal pseudotumours from Hippoglossoides dubius and Acanthogobius flavimanus in Japan and gill lesions in Limanda limanda from the UK have been shown to be caused by phylogenetically related protozoan parasites, known collectively as X-cells. However, the phylogenetic position of the X-cell group is not well supported within any of the existing protozoan phyla and they are currently thought to be members of the Alveolata.Ultrastructural features of X-cells in fish pseudotumours are somewhat limited and no typical environmental stages, such as spores or flagellated cells, have been observed. The life cycles for these parasites have not been demonstrated and it remains unknown how transmission to a new host occurs. In the present study, pseudobranchial pseudotumours from Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua, in Iceland and epidermal pseudotumours from the northern black flounder, Pseudopleuronectes obscurus, in Japan were used in experimental transmission studies to establish whether direct transmission of the parasite is achievable. In addition, X-cells from Atlantic cod were sequenced to confirm whether they are phylogenetically related to other X-cells and epidermal pseudotumours from the northern black flounder were analysed to establish whether the same parasite is responsible for infecting different flatfish species in Japan.
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