Isozymic Characterization of Three Mating Groups of the Tetrahymena pyriformis complex


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SYNOPSIS. Strains of 3 unnamed mating groups of the Tetrahymena pyriformis complex have been subjected to starch gel electrophoresis followed by staining the gels for the enzymes isocitrate dehydrogenase (NADP), tyrosine aminotransferase, and tetrazolium oxidase (superoxide dismutase). With respect to the electrophoretic mobilities of these enzyme systems, the mating groups referred to here as 5, 13 and 14 are very similar to Tetrahymena americanis (syngen 2), the most common North American species of the complex. Cultures in our collection labeled Tetrahymena cosmopolitans (formerly syngen 4) are either amicronucleate, with unique isozyme patterns, or micronucleate cells which mate with and have isozyme patterns similar to Tetrahymena canadensis (syngen 7). Immature progeny have been derived from crosses between the latter strains and T. canadensis recently collected in Colorado. The amicronucleate strains are now placed in the Tetrahymena sp. category, and we conclude that strains identifiable as T. cosmopolitanis are no longer available. The reliability of isozymes as characters in ciliate taxonomy was evaluated by comparing the present results for 3 enzymes in 15 groups of strains (syngens and phenosets) that had been compared in an earlier study. These enzyme systems gave correlation coefficients (r) of 0.75 or higher in the separate studies, and can be considered useful diagnostic traits. Other enzymes that were present at threshold levels of detectability or varied highly in concentration from species to species are too unreliable to be of diagnostic value. Some of the strains in the complex are so evolutionarily divergent at the molecular level that we have difficulty finding growth and electrophoretic conditions under which orthologous enzyme activities can be detected simultaneously for all the strains being compared.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-459
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of Protozoology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1980


  • Tetrahymena pyriformis complex
  • electrophoresis
  • isozymes
  • systematics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology


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