Life Cycle and Variation of Prototheca wickerhamii

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Science  16 Jun 1967:
Vol. 156, Issue 3781, pp. 1501-1503
DOI: 10.1126/science.156.3781.1501


Prototheca wickerhamii is a yeastlike organism that resembles the green alga Chlorella. Nuclear division in coordination with cytoplasmic cleavage gives rise to uninucleate cytoplasmic segments, each of which acquires a delicate cell wall and develops into an autospore. The autospores in this species are spherical; but in a variant that presumably arose as a result of spontaneous mutation, the cytoplasmic cleavage is irregular, and the resultant autospores are ovoid to bacillary. When these variant autospores grow, they swell and round up before the nuclear division begins, producing spherical cells like those seen in wild-type cultures. In view of the fact that species concept in the genus is based on size and shape of cells, the variation limits in these morphological characteristics have significant bearing on species classification.