Exocytosis is, in all likelihood, an important communication method among microbes. Ciliates are highly differentiated and specialized micro-organisms for which versatile and/or sophisticated exocytotic organelles may represent important adaptive tools. Thus, in ciliates, we find a broad range of different extrusomes, i.e ejectable membrane-bound organelles. Structurally simple extrusomes, like mucocysts and cortical granules, are widespread in different taxa within the phylum. They play the roles in each case required for the ecological needs of the organisms. Then, we find a number of more elaborate extrusomes, whose distribution within the phylum is more limited, and in some way related to phylogenetic affinities. Herein we provide a survey of literature and our data on selected extrusomes in ciliates. Their morphology, distribution, and possible function are discussed. The possible phylogenetic implications of their diversity are considered.
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Vol. 50 • No. 6