Cellular structure and ultrastructure of the black coral Antipathes aperta: 1. Organization of the tentacular epidermis and nervous system



The tentacular epidermis of the black coral Antipathes aperta is organized into three distinct regions, containing at least nine different types of cells. The outermost region is dominated by spirocytes along with two types of nematocytes, organized into discrete wart-like batteries. The two nematocyte types both contain microbasic b-mastigophore nematocysts. The outer boundary of the wart is marked by the presence of both spumous and vesicular mucus cells. The ciliation of the wart is contributed principally by the spirocytes. Warts are enveloped and separated from one another by an unusual neurosensory cell complex that extends from the tentacular surface to the mesogleal connective tissue foundation. Funnel-like, flagellated cells composing the complex connect with ganglion cells composing the dominant portion of the nerve net system. Branches of this complex also penetrate the central portion of the wart, making direct contact with the cnidae. The tentacular mid-region is composed of nematocytes and spirocytes in various stages of maturation, along with epitheliomuscular cell (EMC) somata. The EMC's narrow apically extend toward the tentacle surface, forming contacts with the cnidae. The basal end of the EMC expands to form the larger portion of the tentacular musculature. The inner region of tentacular epidermis is marked by a neuromuscular complex sheathed by extensions of mesoglea. The ganglion cells occur as a plexus deep within the tentacle and form polarized junctions with the EMC's, but neuromuscular synapses are not well enough defined for documentation. Polarized synapses lacking well-defined membrane thickenings characterize the interneuronal junctions. Granular cells lining the mesogleal surface appear to be responsible for mesogleal fibrillogenesis.