Changes in somatic cell structure during senescence of Volvox carteri

Eur J Cell Biol. 1981 Jun;24(2):236-43.


Senescence of the terminally differentiated somatic cells of the green alga, Volvox carteri f. weismannia, was investigated by light, fluorescence, and electron microscopy. Viability of the somatic cell population, as determined by trypan blue or erythrosin B exclusion, showed a sharp reduction beginning 144 h after the somatic cells had lost the ability to divide. This increased mortality rate was correlated at the light microscopic level with a retraction of the somatic cell cytoplasm, a reduction in chloroplast autofluorescence (and total chlorophyll content), and a decline in the number of vacuoles which could be localized with 9-aminoacridine fluorescence microscopy. Nuclear fluorescence with acridine orange remained unaffected during this time. Lipid bodies increased in older cells, and total lipid analysis showed a sharp increase beginning 96 h after the somatic cells had stopped dividing. Electron microscopic comparison between young (48--72 h) and old (168 h) somatic cells showed a disorganization of chloroplast structure, a decline in the number of cytoplasmic ribosomes, and, substantiating the light microscopy, and accumulation of lipid bodies in the cytoplasm of the older cells. The results demonstrate progressive changes in somatic cell structure with age and are suggestive of cells under nutrient stress even though they are in nutrient medium. Therefore senescence and death of the V. carteri somatic cells may be caused, in part, by an inability to take up or utilize nutrients present in the culture medium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Cell Survival
  • Chlorophyta / cytology
  • Chlorophyta / physiology*
  • Microscopy, Electron