The ciliate Paramecium bursaria allows budding of symbiotic Chlorella variabilis cells singly from the digestive vacuole membrane into the cytoplasm during algal reinfection

Protoplasma. 2022 Jan;259(1):117-125. doi: 10.1007/s00709-021-01645-x. Epub 2021 Apr 21.


The ciliate Paramecium bursaria harbors several hundred symbiotic Chlorella spp. cells in the cytoplasm. Algal re-endosymbiosis can be artificially induced using alga-removed P. bursaria. During algal re-endosymbiosis, algae ingested into the host digestive vacuoles (DVs) avoid digestion by the host lysosomal enzymes and then escape into the cytoplasm by budding off of the DV membrane. The budded alga-enclosing DV membrane then differentiates into the symbiosome or perialgal vacuole (PV) membrane and is localized beneath the host cell cortex. In this study, we determined whether the PV membrane has the ability to recognize the symbiotic alga singly by eliminating other small microspheres in the same DV. To clarify the accuracy of the budding process, we mixed fluorescent-labeled microspheres of diameter 0.20 µm with isolated symbiotic algae during algal re-endosymbiosis. No fluorescence was observed from the PV membrane, as expected, and the budding DVs that enclosed both undigested and digested algae. Additionally, the algal re-endosymbiosis rate was significantly reduced in the presence of microspheres. These observations showed that the host P. bursaria allowed budding of the algae singly from the membranes of DVs without microspheres and this process required close contact between the DV membrane and the algal cell wall.

Keywords: Chlorella sp.; Digestive vacuole membrane; Endosymbiosis; Microsphere; Paramecium bursaria; Perialgal vacuole membrane.

MeSH terms

  • Chlorella*
  • Humans
  • Paramecium*
  • Reinfection
  • Symbiosis
  • Vacuoles