Some ascidians (sea squirts) accumulate the transitional metal vanadium in their blood cells at concentrations of up to 350 mM, about 10(7) times its concentration found in seawater. There are approximately 10 different types of blood cell in ascidians. The identity of the true vanadium-containing blood cell (vanadocyte) is controversial and little is known about the subcellular distribution of vanadium. A scanning x-ray microscope installed at the ID21 beamline of the European Synchroton Radiation Facility to visualize vanadium in ascidian blood cells. Without fixation, freezing or staining realized the visualization of vanadium localized in living signet ring cells and vacuolated amoebocytes of two vanadium-rich ascidian species, Phallusia mammillata and Ascidia sydneiensis samea. A combination of transmission and fluorescence images of signet ring cells suggested that in both species the vacuoles contain vanadium.
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