Most ascidian species settle on underwater substrates during a short free-swimming tadpole larval period. During this process, “rapid adhesion” occurs on adhesive papillae located at the anterior region of the cephalenteron. Settled and transformed ascidians subsequently expand the attachment area by “slow adhesion” with ampullae. In the present study, we attempted to identify the ultrastructures related to the adhesion process and adhesive materials in the ascidian tunic and to elucidate the biological function of vanadium in adhesion. We focused on an adhesive organ named the adhesive projection, which is newly generated by the adhered tunic to enlarge the bonding area between ascidian and substrate. Based on its structure and the presence of vanadiumcontaining blood cells, the adhesive projection was considered to be a large tunic vessel. At the adhered tunic, eosinophilic regions and migrated tunic cells were observed, but metal deposition was not detected. We speculate that the eosinophilic materials were components of the adhesive glue, and these are likey produced in epithelial cells, tunic cells, or both. Furthermore, using imaging mass spectrometry, we identified eight tunic-specific molecules as glue candidates.
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Vol. 35 • No. 6