Differentiation between Prototheca and morphologically similar green algae in tissue

F W Chandler, W Kaplan, C S Callaway
Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine 1978, 102 (7): 353-6
Evidence that algae are pathogens was provided by the results of electron microscopic studies of tissues from five cattle and sheep suspected of having green algal infections. Chloroplasts were demonstrated in the algae in each case. Prototheca organisms, considered by some to be achloric mutants of green algae, are causative agents of disease in man and animals and may appear morphologically similar to green algae in tissue. However, electron microscopy showed that chloroplasts were absent in these organisms. Light microscopy revealed not only similarities in size, shape, and mode of reproduction, but also a striking difference between the Prototheca organisms and green algae. Unlike Prototheca, the green algae contained abundant cytoplasmic starch granules that were strongly positive by several staining procedures; these granules, which were PAS-negative following diastase digestion, provide a means of differentiating green algae from Prototheca cells in tissue.

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