Carbon release from purified chemoautotrophic bacterial symbionts of the hydrothermal vent tubeworm Riftia pachyptila

Physiol Zool. May-Jun 1998;71(3):294-302. doi: 10.1086/515931.


The gutless hydrothermal tubeworm Riftia pachyptila Jones relies mainly on its chemoautotrophic bacterial symbionts to supply nutrients in the form of secreted organic compounds resulting from fixation and incorporation of CO2. In this study, symbionts were purified, tested for viability, and incubated in the presence of labeled CO2. We demonstrated that purified symbionts can be used as a viable alternative to experiments with bacterial cultures. Several organic acids, sugars, and amino acids were labeled, but their fraction of the total label stayed generally constant during the incubation times used. However, increasing fractions of succinate and, to a lesser degree, glutamate were excreted into the incubation medium, indicating that these are probably the main carbon-containing compounds transferred from the symbionts to the host. Glutamate could also account for the transport of nitrogen from the symbionts to the host.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Carbon / metabolism*
  • Fructose / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glyceric Acids / metabolism
  • Malates / metabolism
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Polychaeta / microbiology*
  • Polychaeta / physiology*
  • Succinates / metabolism
  • Symbiosis*


  • Amino Acids
  • Glyceric Acids
  • Malates
  • Succinates
  • Fructose
  • Carbon
  • 3-phosphoglycerate
  • Glucose