Involvement of contractile elements in control of bioluminescence in Northern krill, Meganyctiphanes norvegica (M. Sars)

Cell Tissue Res. 2009 May;336(2):299-308. doi: 10.1007/s00441-009-0774-1. Epub 2009 Apr 2.


Inside the light organs of the bioluminescent (light-producing) crustacean Meganyctiphanes norvegica (krill), numerous capillaries drain haemolymph into the light-producing structure (lantern). We have investigated the arrangement and function of filamentous material found around the opening of the capillaries. These have been suggested to work as sphincters, controlling the haemolymph (i.e. oxygen) supply to the lantern and thereby the production of light. Electron microscopy shows that the filamentous material consists of thick and thin muscle filaments arranged in perpendicular blocks around the opening of each capillary. The actin probe rhodamine phalloidin has revealed that one component is filamentous actin. Clusters of vesicle-dense nerve profiles surround the cells containing filamentous material and antibodies against 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) reveal that 5-HT containing nerves lead to the filamentous area. When exposed to the muscle-relaxing substances papaverine and verapamil, krill respond with luminescence, suggesting that the sphincter structures are functionally involved in the control of light production. Treatment with the muscle-contracting drugs Bay K8544 and thapsigargin gives no light response. Thus, 5-HT stimulates light production in krill; however, a combination of 5-HT and the muscle-relaxing drugs or Bay K8544 potentiates the effect of 5-HT. Thapsigargin quenches the response to 5-HT. Our results corroborate speculations of earlier authors who have suggested that the sphincter structures are of a muscular nature and important in controlling light production in krill. However, other parameters in addition to the oxygen supply to the lantern are involved in controlling bioluminescence in the light organs of M. norvegica.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / drug effects
  • Actin Cytoskeleton / physiology*
  • Actin Cytoskeleton / radiation effects
  • Actin Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Euphausiacea / drug effects
  • Euphausiacea / physiology*
  • Euphausiacea / radiation effects
  • Euphausiacea / ultrastructure
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Light
  • Luminescence*
  • Muscle Relaxation / drug effects
  • Muscle Relaxation / radiation effects
  • Papaverine / pharmacology
  • Thapsigargin / pharmacology
  • Time Factors
  • Verapamil / pharmacology


  • Thapsigargin
  • Verapamil
  • Papaverine