The flagellar apparatus of the glaucophyte Cyanophora cuspidata

Aaron A. Heiss, Alaric W. Heiss, Kaleigh Lukacs, Eunsoo Kim

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3 Scopus citations


Glaucophytes are a kingdom-scale lineage of unicellular algae with uniquely underived plastids. The genus Cyanophora is of particular interest because it is the only glaucophyte that is a flagellate throughout its life cycle, making its morphology more directly comparable than other glaucophytes to other eukaryote flagellates. The ultrastructure of Cyanophora has already been studied, primarily in the 1960s and 1970s. However, the usefulness of that work has been undermined by its own limitations, subsequent misinterpretations, and a recent taxonomic revision of the genus. For example, Cyanophora's microtubular roots have been widely reported as cruciate, with rotationally symmetrical wide and thin roots, although the first ultrastructural work described it as having three wide and one narrow root. We examine Cyanophora cuspidata using scanning and transmission electron microscopy, and construct a model of its cytoskeleton using serial-section TEM. We confirm the earlier model, with asymmetric roots. We describe previously unknown and unsuspected features of its microtubular roots, including (i) a rearrangement of individual microtubules within the posterior right root, (ii) a splitting of the posterior left root into two subroots, and (iii) the convergence and termination of the narrow roots against wider ones in both the anterior and posterior subsystems of the flagellar apparatus. We also describe a large complement of nonmicrotubular components of the cytoskeleton, including a substantial connective between the posterior right root and the anterior basal body. Our work should serve as the starting point for a re-examination of both internal glaucophyte diversity and morphological evolution in eukaryotes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1120-1150
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Phycology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Phycological Society of America


  • Cyanophora paradoxa
  • Glaucocystophyceae
  • Glaucophyceae
  • basal apparatus
  • eukaryote
  • microtubule
  • transmission electron microscope


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