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Captured: Mysterious oyster killers

Date:
July 25, 2013
Source:
University of British Columbia
Summary:
Researchers have apprehended tiny, elusive parasites that have plagued oysters from British Columbia to California.

Left: This is an oyster covered in green lesions caused by Denman Island disease. Right: This is a close-up look at the Mikrocytos mackini parasite.
Credit: UBC/Department of Fisheries and Oceans

University of British Columbia researchers have apprehended tiny, elusive parasites that have plagued oysters from British Columbia to California.

First reported in 1960, Denman Island disease is caused by Mikrocytos mackini, a parasite that infects mainly Pacific oysters, and leads to unsightly green lesions and death.

"M. mackini has eluded capture for more than 50 years because it lives inside the oyster's cells and has proved impossible to grow and study in a lab," says Patrick Keeling a professor in UBC's Department of Botany who led the microbial investigative team.

The research team from UBC and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans isolated the parasites from infected oysters and analyzed their genes. Details are published today in the journal Current Biology.

"We figured out where M. mackini came from in the evolutionary tree of life -- it is part of an enigmatic group of amoebae called Rhizaria that was only itself discovered a few years ago," says Keeling, director of the Centre for Microbial Diversity and Evolution at UBC and a Fellow of Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

"These parasites have an extremely reduced metabolism. They can't survive in oxygen and its mitochondria -- or cellular powerhouse -- can't produce energy, so they probably steals most things from the oyster host in order to survive."

While not considered a health threat to humans, the Denman Island disease makes the raw delicacy unappealing. In B.C., oyster production in 2011 totalled 7,500 tonnes and was valued at $9.2 million.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Fabien Burki, Nicolas Corradi, Roberto Sierra, Jan Pawlowski, GaryR. Meyer, CathrynL. Abbott, PatrickJ. Keeling. Phylogenomics of the Intracellular Parasite Mikrocytos mackini Reveals Evidence for a Mitosome in Rhizaria. Current Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.06.033

Cite This Page:

University of British Columbia. "Captured: Mysterious oyster killers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130725125424.htm>.
University of British Columbia. (2013, July 25). Captured: Mysterious oyster killers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130725125424.htm
University of British Columbia. "Captured: Mysterious oyster killers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130725125424.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

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