Int. J. Dev. Biol. 46: 699 - 704 (2002)
© UPV/EHU Press

The ontogeny of allorecognition in a colonial hydroid and the fate of early established chimeras.

Marc-Aurel Fuchs, Ofer Mokady and Uri Frank

Institute of Zoology, University of Heidelberg, Germany.

ABSTRACT Colonies of the marine hydroid, Hydractinia, are able to discriminate between their own tissues and those belonging to unrelated conspecifics. We have studied the ontogeny of this allorecognition system by a series of allogeneic transplantations along a developmental gradient, including two-cell-stage embryos, 8 h morulae, planula larvae and metamorphosed polyps. Allograft acceptance of incompatible tissue was observed in all embryonic and larval stages, whereas metamorphosed polyps rejected incompatible transplanted allografts. Most of the chimeras established at the two-cell-stage, although composed of two allogeneic, incompatible entities with mismatching allorecognition loci, developed normally and remained stable through metamorphosis. The results of post metamorphic transplantation assays among the chimeras and the naive ramets, suggested that both incompatible genotypes were still represented in the chimera despite the onset of alloimmune maturation. The naive colonies always rejected each other. Chimeras established from later embryonic and larval stages did not develop into adult chimeric entities, but rather separated immediately post metamorphosis. We thus show that (1) allorecognition in this species matures during metamorphosis and (2) genetically incompatible entities may coexist in one immunologically mature, chimeric soma, provided that they were grafted early enough in ontogeny.