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    Pigment organelles of vertebrates belong to the lysosome-related organelle (LRO) family, of which melanin-producing melanosomes are the prototypes. While their anabolism has been extensively unraveled through the study of melanosomes in skin melanocytes, their catabolism remains poorly known. Here, we tap into the unique ability of crab spiders to reversibly change body coloration to examine the catabolism of their pigment organelles. By combining ultrastructural and metal analyses on high-pressure frozen integuments, we first assess whether pigment organelles of crab spiders belong to the LRO family and second, how their catabolism is intracellularly processed. Using scanning transmission electron microscopy, electron tomography, and nanoscale Synchrotron-based scanning X-ray fluorescence, we show that pigment organelles possess ultrastructural and chemical hallmarks of LROs, including intraluminal vesicles and metal deposits, similar to melanosomes. Monitoring ultrastructural changes during bleaching suggests that the catabolism of pigment organelles involves the degradation and removal of their intraluminal content, possibly through lysosomal mechanisms. In contrast to skin melanosomes, anabolism and catabolism of pigments proceed within the same cell without requiring either cell death or secretion/phagocytosis. Our work hence provides support for the hypothesis that the endolysosomal system is fully functionalized for within-cell turnover of pigments, leading to functional maintenance under adverse conditions and phenotypic plasticity. First formulated for eye melanosomes in the context of human vision, the hypothesis of intracellular turnover of pigments gets unprecedented strong support from pigment organelles of spiders.


    Florent Figon, Ilse Hurbain, Xavier Heiligenstein, Sylvain Trépout, Arnaud Lanoue, Kadda Medjoubi, Andrea Somogyi, Cédric Delevoye, Graça Raposo, Jérôme Casas. Catabolism of lysosome-related organelles in color-changing spiders supports intracellular turnover of pigments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2021 Aug 31;118(35)

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    PMID: 34433668

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