Citation Fichi G, Carboni S, Bron J, Ireland J, Leaver M & Paladini G (2018) Characterisation of the intracellular protozoan MPX in Scottish mussels, Mytilus edulis Linnaeus, 1758. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, 153, pp. 99-108. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jip.2018.02.022
Abstract Ciliates have been reported as pathogens of many species of economically important bivalves. Mussel protozoan X (MPX), is an uncharacterised intracellular ciliate of mussels and has been widely reported in Mytilus spp. around the world. In order to characterise this ciliate, Mytilus edulis samples were collected from a site on the West coast of Scotland, and four different fixatives for histological examination were tested. Fresh preparations of mussel digestive glands were also examined by laser scanning confocal microscopy. Intracellular ciliates were prepared by laser capture microdissection and partial sequences of small subunit ribosomal RNA gene and of large subunit ribosomal RNA gene were generated, using Phyllopharyngea primers. Methacarn solution proved to be the best fixative for both histological and molecular characterisation. The morphological and molecular investigations confirmed that this ciliate belongs to the class Phyllopharyngea, order Rhynchodida. However, this organism does not belong to any known family, genus or species, therefore, a new description is necessary, following further morphological analyses. Most mussel samples containing MPX displayed mild to moderate infections, with no signs of necrosis or haemocytic response, although a single sample displayed a severe infection (∼103 ciliates per section). The localisation of this ciliate in tissues other than the digestive gland, the presence of necrosis in infected tissue of the most severely infected mussel and the binary fission of this ciliate have been observed here for the first time. We also report the first observation of the live ciliate isolated from tissue. Although MPX remains of unknown significance to the mussel industry, tools and protocols described here will be useful in further characterising these and other ciliates (subclass Rhynchodia) known as pathogens for bivalves.