The morphology of membrane-bound intracellular inclusions, or 'cysts', of epitheliocystis from sea bream Sparus aurata is described. Inclusions under the light microscope appear either granular or amorphous. Granular inclusions do not elicit a proliferative host reaction and contain the 3 distinctive developmental stages of chlamydial organisms: the highly pleomorphic reproductive form or reticulate body, the condensing form or intermediate body and the infective non-dividing rather uniform elementary body. Amorphous inclusions may elicit a proliferative host reaction and contain prokaryotic organisms which differ morphologically from those reported within granular cysts. More or less elongated electron-lucent organisms divide by fission to give rise to electron-dense non-dividing small cells with a dense nucleoid. Vacuolated and non-vacuolated small cells are reported. The morphology and developmental cycle of sea bream epitheliocystis agents would support their chlamydial nature; however, the immunohistochemical study conducted on gill samples which carried both inclusions failed to demonstrate the expression of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) chlamydial antigen. The different stages of the 2 distinct developmental cycles described in the present study are compared with electron microscope observations of epitheliocystis organisms reported from different host species. The hypothesis that epitheliocystis infection in the sea bream might be caused by a unique highly pleomorphic chlamydia-like agent, the life history of which includes 2 entirely different developmental cycles, is discussed.
- Chlamydial organisms
- Epitheliocystis infection
- Gill pathology
- Light and electron microscopy
- Sea bream