Characterization of Coelomic Fluid Cell Types in the Starfish Marthasterias glacialis Using a Flow Cytometry/Imaging Combined Approach

Claúdia Andrade, Bárbara Oliveira, Silvia Guatelli, Pedro Martinez, Beatriz Simões, Claúdia Bispo, Cinzia Ferrario, Francesco Bonasoro, José Rino, Michela Sugni, Rui Gardner, Rita Zilhão, Ana Varela Coelho

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Coelomocytes is the generic name for a collection of cellular morphotypes, present in many coelomate animals, and highly variable among echinoderm classes. The roles attributed to the major types of these free circulating cells present in the coelomic fluid of echinoderms include immune response, phagocytic digestion and clotting. Our main aim in this study was to characterize coelomocytes found in the coelomic fluid of Marthasterias glacialis (class Asteroidea) by using a combination of flow cytometry (FC), imaging flow cytometry (IFC) and fluorescence plus transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Two coelomocyte populations (P1 and P2) identified through flow cytometry were subsequently studied in terms of abundance, morphology, ultrastructure, cell viability and cell cycle profiles. Ultrastructurally, P2 diploid cells were present as two main morphotypes, similar to phagocytes and vertebrate thrombocytes, whereas the smaller P1 cellular population was characterized by low mitotic activity, a relatively undifferentiated cytotype and a high nucleus/cytoplasm ratio. In the present study we could not rule out possible similarities between haploid P1 cells and stem-cell types in other animals. Additionally, we report the presence of two other morphotypes in P2 that could only be detected by fluorescence microscopy, as well as a morphotype revealed via combined microscopy/FC. This integrative experimental workflow combined cells physical separation with different microscopic image capture technologies, enabling us to better tackle the characterization of the heterogeneous composition of coelomocytes populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number641664
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2021


  • coelomocytes
  • echinoderms
  • flow cytometry and imaging flow cytometry
  • fluorescence and transmission electron microscopy
  • Marthasterias glacialis


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