Proliferative kidney disease (PKD) of salmonid fishes is caused by the extrasporogonic stage of an enigmatic myxozoan, referred to as PKX. Sporogenesis occurs in the renal tubules, resulting in monosporous pseudoplasmodia. The spores are ovoid with indistinguishable valves and measure 12 µm in length and 7 µm in width. Two spherical polar capsules (2 µm diameter) with 4 coils occur at the anterior end of the spore. Prominent capsulogenic cell nuclei posterior to the polar capsules are evident in histological sections stained with hematoxylin and eosin. Regardless of the true nature of the valves (indistinguishable or absent), this myxozoan is morphologically distinct from all other described members of the phylum Myxozoa. Comparisons of small subunit rDNA sequences of PKX with other myxozoans demonstrated that it branches from all other members of the myxosporeans from fish examined thus far, including representatives of the phenotypically most closely related genera, Sphaerospora and Parvicapsula. Recent reports, based on rDNA comparisons, indicate that the alternate stage of PKX occurs in bryozoans, and that PKX clusters in a clade with Tetracapsula bryozoides. Our analyses and those of others, along with phenotypic observations, indicate that salmonids are the primary myxosporean hosts for PKX, that the cryptic spores of PKX in salmonids are the fully formed myxospores as they occur in the fish host, and that PKX represents distinct species that we previously place in the genus Tetracapsula in the family Saccosporidae. The latter 2 taxa were described based on stages from bryozoans, and the myxosporean stage in fish of the type species, T. bryozoides, has not been identified (if it exists). Thus, more complete resolution of the life cycle of both PKX and T. bryozoides, as well as more genetic data, are required to determine the precise relationship of these organisms.
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