Functional organization of battery cell complexes in tentacles of Hydra attenuata

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Ultrastructural and light microscopic observations on the organization of thick and thin regions of hydra's tentacles, made on serial sections and on whole fixed, plastic‐embedded tentacles, reveal the existence of two levels of anatomical order in the tentacle ectoderm: (1) The battery‐cell complex (BCC), composed of a single epitheliomuscular cell (EMC) and its content of enclosed nematocytes and neurons; and (2) the battery cell complex ring (BCC ring), an arrangement of 4 or more BCCs into larger units organized as rings around the circumference of the tentacle. All EMCs of the distal tentacle appear to contain batteries of nematocytes, and are, therefore, called “battery cells.” Apart from battery cell complexes and migrating nematocytes, there are no other cell types in the tentacle ectoderm. Battery cells are composed of three distinct regions: the cell body, peripheral attenuated extensions and myonemes. Thick tentacle bands are composed of cell bodies, whereas thin bands are made up of attenuated extensions. Myonemes contribute to both thick and thin regions. It was confirmed that each battery cell has several myonemes, which appear to interdigitate with myonemes of other more proximal and distal battery cells, but not with battery cells of the same BCC ring. Nematocytes have several basal processes. Some processes insert between myonemes and contact the mesoglea; other processes insert into cuplike extensions of myonemes, and are connected to myonemal cups by desmosomal junctions. These observations are discussed in relation to mechanical and electrical aspects of tentacular contraction and bending. Copyright © 1985 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Publication Title

Journal of Morphology