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Published in: American Zoologist, vol.41, 2,2001.


The presence of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity is demonstrated in the tropical marine cnidarian Aiptasia pallida and in its symbiotic dinoflagellate algae, Symbiodinium bermudense. Enzyme activity was assayed by measuring the conversion of arginine to citrulline. Biochemical characterization of NOS from Aiptasia was characterized with respect to cellular localization, substrate and cofactor requirements, inhibitors, and kinetics. In response to acute temperature shock, anemones retracted their tentacles. Animals subjected to such stress had lower NOS activities than did controls. Treatment with NOS inhibitors caused tentacular retraction, while treatment with the NOS substrate L-arginine inhibited this response to stress, as did treatment with NO donors. These results provide a preliminary biochemical characterization of, and suggest a functional significance for, NOS activity in anthozoan-algal symbiotic assemblages.