Cellular and nuclear morphological variability within a single species of the toxigenic dinoflagellate genus Gambierdiscus: Relationship to life-cycle processes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Dinoflagellates belonging to the genus Gambierdiscus are the causative agent of ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP). This syndrome, which is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, has recently been reported also in temperate latitudes. Taxonomic studies of Gambierdiscus have yet to completely couple the morphological features of member species with their genetics. In this study, the cellular and nuclear morphology of a single strain of one species of Gambierdiscus was determined in cells grown under different culture conditions. The results showed a wide-ranging variability of cell sizes, together with a clear relationship between cell size and nuclear morphology. Thus, small cells were associated with round to oval or slightly U-shaped nuclei and large cells with obviously U-shaped nuclei. Most cells exhibited the typical anterio-posteriorly compressed lenticular, shape of Gambierdiscus, with the exception of a few small globular-shaped specimens. In all cells, regardless of their size, the arrangement of the thecal plates was typical of lenticular Gambierdiscus. Dividing cells were consistently the largest. In these cells, nuclear morphology, karyokinesis, and cytokinesis were characterized. Cells underwent division only during the dark. period, thus demonstrating their spontaneous synchronized division. Cellular forms related to the sexual cycle were also present in the cultures and included gamete pairs and putative meiotic planozygotes. The effect of the culture medium was studied by means of principal component analyses, which showed a positive correlation between the medium used and nuclear size and shape but not cell size. (C) 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.


  • Isabel Bravo
  • Rosa Figueroa
  • Santiago Fraga
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology


  • Gambierdiscus, Ciguatera fish poisoning, CFP, Benthic dinoflagellates, Harmful algae, Life cycle
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
JournalHarmful Algae
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch