Comprehensive Description

Description of Amoeba

Locomotive cells, often 220 to 760 µm in length, although A. diminutiva Bovee, 1972 is only 15 to 20 µm. Usually polypodial with one dominant cylindrical pseudopodium, often with ectoplasmic ridges. Resting, or well fed, cells irregularly rounded. Floating form with long, radiating pseudopodia. Cytoplasm granular in appearance often with truncated bipyramidal crystals. Posterior uroid morulate when present. Single nucleus, discoid or ovoidal, sometimes with peripheral granules. Nucleolar material often scattered. At the ultrastructural level, surface coat of A. proteus has filaments rising 230 nm above the plasma membrane whereas coat of A. lenigradensis amorphous and without filaments. Freshwater. The genus is best known for the species A. proteus which is a popular teaching tool and familiar to most students of biology.
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Depth range based on 1 specimen in 2 taxa.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 91 - 91
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Depth range based on 1 specimen in 2 taxa.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 91 - 91
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.


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Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Cell coat is impenetrable: amoeba

Cell coat of amoeba is impenetrable due to a very thick layer of densely packed helical glycostyles with pentagonal glass-shaped tips.

  "The genus Paradermamoeba was established for a single species, Paradermamoeba valamo [1993]...Later a second species of this genus, P. levis, was discovered and described (Smirnov and Goodkov,1994). Amoebae of this genus have a very thick (up to 520 nm) cell coat, consisting of a layer of densely packed helical glycostyles with pentagonal glass-shaped tips. Perhaps, the impenetrability of the glycocalyx was the reason for numerous failed attempts to investigate the ultrastructure of these species." (Smirnov and Goodkov 2004:113)

"The cell coat of this species is about 520 nm of total thickness, and consists of a layer of regularly arranged tightly packed helical-shaped glycostyles. Coils of neighboring helices overlap. Each glycostyle terminates with a hollow straight funnel-shaped structure, which sometimes seems to be pentagonal in cross-section. The length of the spiral part of the glycostyles is about 400 nm and the diameter is about 100 nm; length of the straight terminal part of glycostyles is about 120 nm. Helices form 7-7,5 turns. They are embedded in an unstructured electron-transparent matrix which does not seem to prevent the neighboring glycostyles from moving in relation to each other." (Smirnov and Goodkov 1993:1)

[Note: The "impenetrability" appears to refer to the inability to determine the structure of the organism by using electron microscopy, which uses a beam of electrons to illuminate it.]

  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Smirnov & Goodkov. Paradermamoeba valamo Smirnov & Goodkov 1993.
  • Smirnov, A.; Goodkov, A. 2004. Ultrastructure and geographic distribution of the genus Paradermamoeba (Gymnamoebia, Thecamoebidae). European Journal of Protistology. 40: 113-118.
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Amoeba (genus)

This article is about the genus Amoeba. For other uses, see Amoeba (disambiguation).

Amoeba is a genus of single-celled amoeboid protists in the family Amoebidae.[2] The type species of the genus is Amoeba proteus, a common freshwater organism, widely studied in classrooms and laboratories.[3]

History and classification[edit]

The first illustration of an amoeboid, from Roesel von Rosenhof's Insecten-Belustigung (1755).

The earliest record of an organism resembling Amoeba was produced in 1755 by August Johann Rösel von Rosenhof, who named his discovery "Der Kleine Proteus" ("the Little Proteus"), after Proteus, the shape-shifting sea-god of Greek Mythology.[4] While Rösel's illustrations show a creature similar in appearance to the one now known as Amoeba proteus, his "little Proteus'' cannot be identified confidently with any modern species.[5]

The term "Proteus animalcule" remained in use throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, as an informal name for any large, free-living amoeboid.[6]

In 1758, apparently without seeing Rösel's "Proteus" for himself, Carl Linnaeus included the organism in his own system of classification, under the name Volvox chaos. However, because the name Volvox had already been applied to a genus of flagellate algae, he later changed the name to Chaos chaos. In 1786, the Danish Naturalist Otto Müller described and illustrated a species he called Proteus diffluens, which was probably the organism known today as Amoeba proteus.[7]

The genus Amiba, from the Greek amoibè (ἀμοιβή), meaning "change", was erected in 1822 by Bory de Saint-Vincent.[8][9] In, 1830. the German naturalist C. G. Ehrenberg adopted this genus in his own classification of microscopic creatures, but changed the spelling to "Amoeba."[10]

Anatomy, feeding and reproduction[edit]

Species of Amoeba move and feed by extending temporary structures called pseudopodia. These are formed by the coordinated action of microfilaments within the cellular cytoplasm pushing out the plasma membrane which surrounds the cell.[11] In Amoeba, the pseudopodia are approximately tubular, and rounded at the ends (lobose). The cell's overall shape may change rapidly as pseudopodia are extended and retracted into the cell body. An Amoeba may produce many pseudopodia at once, especially when freely floating. When crawling rapidly along a surface, the cell may take a roughly monopodial form, with a single dominant pseudopod deployed in the direction of movement.[12]

Anatomy of an Amoeba.

Historically, researchers have divided the cytoplasm into two parts, consisting of a granular inner endoplasm and an outer layer of clear ectoplasm, both enclosed within a flexible plasma membrane.[13] The cell usually has a single granular nucleus, containing most of the organism's DNA . A contractile vacuole is used to maintain osmotic equilibrium by excreting excess water from the cell (see Osmoregulation).

An Amoeba obtains its food by phagocytosis, engulfing smaller organisms and particles of organic matter, or by pinocytosis, taking in dissolved nutrients through vesicles formed within the cell membrane.[14] Food enveloped by the Amoeba is stored in digestive organelles called food vacuoles.

Amoeba, like other unicellular eukaryotic organisms, reproduces asexually by mitosis and cytokinesis. Sexual phenomena have not been observed in Amoeba, although sexual exchange of genetic material is known to occur in other Amoebozoan groups.[15] In cases where organisms are forcibly divided, the portion that retains the nucleus will often survive and form a new cell and cytoplasm, while the other portion dies.[16]


Like many other protists, species of Amoeba control osmotic pressures with the help of a membrane-bound organelle called the contractile vacuole. Amoeba proteus has one contractile vacuole which slowly fills with water from the cytoplasm (diastole), then, while fusing with the cell membrane, quickly contracts (systole), releasing water to the outside by exocytosis. This process regulates the amount of water present in the cytoplasm of the amoeba.

Immediately after the contractile vacuole (CV) expels water, its membrane crumples. Soon afterwards, many small vacuoles or vesicles appear surrounding the membrane of the CV.[17] It is suggested that these vesicles split from the CV membrane itself. The small vesicles gradually increase in size as they take in water and then they fuse with the CV, which grows in size as it fills with water. Therefore, the function of these numerous small vesicles is to collect excess cytoplasmic water and channel it to the central CV. The CV swells for a number of minutes and then contracts to expel the water outside. The cycle is then repeated again.

The membranes of the small vesicles as well as the membrane of the CV have aquaporin proteins embedded in them.[17] These transmembrane proteins facilitate water passage through the membranes. The presence of aquaporin proteins in both CV and the small vesicles suggests that water collection occurs both through the CV membrane itself as well as through the function of the vesicles. However, the vesicles, being more numerous and smaller, would allow a faster water uptake due to the larger total surface area provided by the vesicles.[17]

The small vesicles also have another protein embedded in their membrane: vacuolar-type H+-ATPase or V-ATPase.[17] This ATPase pumps H+ ions into the vesicle lumen, lowering its pH with respect to the cytosol. However, the pH of the CV in some amoebas is only mildly acidic, suggesting that the H+ ions are being removed from the CV or from the vesicles. It is thought that the electrochemical gradient generated by V-ATPase might be used for the transport of ions (it is presumed K+ and Cl) into the vesicles. This builds an osmotic gradient across the vesicle membrane, leading to influx of water from the cytosol into the vesicles by osmosis,[17] which is facilitated by aquaporins.

Since these vesicles fuse with the central contractile vacuole, which expels the water, ions end up being removed from the cell, which is not beneficial for a freshwater organism. The removal of ions with the water has to be compensated by some yet-unidentified mechanism.

Like other eukaryotes, Amoeba species are adversely affected by excessive osmotic pressure caused by extremely saline or dilute water. In saline water, an Amoeba will prevent the influx of salt, resulting in a net loss of water as the cell becomes isotonic with the environment, causing the cell to shrink. Placed into fresh water, Amoeba will match the concentration of the surrounding water, causing the cell to swell. If the surrounding water is too dilute, the cell may burst.[18]

Amoebic cysts[edit]

Main article: Microbial cyst

In environments that are potentially lethal to the cell, an Amoeba may become dormant by forming itself into a ball and secreting a protective membrane to become a microbial cyst. The cell remains in this state until it encounters more favourable conditions.[16] While in cyst form the amoeba will not replicate and may die if unable to emerge for a lengthy period of time.

Video gallery[edit]

Amoeba proteus in motion
Amoeba engulfing a diatom


  1. ^ Bory de Saint-Vincent, J.B.G.M. (1822-1831). Article "Amiba". In: Dictionnaire classique d'histoire naturelle par Messieurs Audouin, Isid. Bourdon, Ad. Brongniart, De Candolle, Daudebard de Férusac, A. Desmoulins, Drapiez, Edwards, Flourens, Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire, A. De Jussieu, Kunth, G. de Lafosse, Lamouroux, Latreille, Lucas fils, Presle-Duplessis, C. Prévost, A. Richard, Thiébaut de Berneaud, et Bory de Saint-Vincent. Ouvrage dirigé par ce dernier collaborateur, et dans lequel on a ajouté, pour le porter au niveau de la science, un grand nombre de mots qui n'avaient pu faire partie de la plupart des Dictionnaires antérieurs. 17 vols. Paris: Rey et Gravier; Baudoin frères, vol. 1, p. 260, [1].
  2. ^ Xu, Kaigin (2007-). "National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan". The World of Protozoa, Rotifera, Nematoda and Oligochaeta. National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan. Retrieved Sep 11, 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Friz, Carl T. (1992). "Taxonomic Analyses of Seven Species of Family Amoebidae by Isozymic Characterization of Electrophoretic Patterns and the Descriptions of a New Genus and a New Species: Metamoeba n. gen. Amoeba amazonas n. sp.". Archiv für Protistenkunde. doi:10.1016/S0003-9365(11)80098-9. Retrieved Sep 11, 2014. 
  4. ^ Rosenhof, R. (1755). Monatlich herausgegebene Insektenbelustigungen, vol. 3, p. 621, [2].
  5. ^ Jeon, Kwang W. (1973). Biology of Amoeba. New York: Academic Press. pp. 2–3. 
  6. ^ McAlpine, Daniel (1881). Biological atlas: a guide to the practical study of plants and animals. Edinburgh and London: W. & A. K. Johnston. p. 17. 
  7. ^ Jeon, Kwang W. (1973). Biology of Amoeba. New York: Academic Press. p. 5. 
  8. ^ Bory de Saint-Vincent, J. B. G. M. "Essai d'une classification des animaux microscopiques." Agasse, Paris (1826).p. 28
  9. ^ McGrath, Kimberley; Blachford, Stacey, eds. (2001). Gale Encyclopedia of Science Vol. 1: Aardvark-Catalyst (2nd ed.). Gale Group. ISBN 0-7876-4370-X. OCLC 46337140. 
  10. ^ Ehrenberg, Christian Gottfried. Organisation, systematik und geographisches verhältniss der infusionsthierchen: Zwei vorträge, in der Akademie der wissenschaften zu Berlin gehalten in den jahren 1828 und 1830. Druckerei der Königlichen akademie der wissenschaften, 1832. p. 59
  11. ^ Alberts et al. Eds. (2007). Molecular Biology of the Cell 5th Edition. New York: Garland Science. p. 1037. ISBN 9780815341055. 
  12. ^ Siemensma, Ferry. "Amoeba". Microworld: World of Amoeboid Organisms. Ferry Siemensma. Retrieved Sep 11, 2014. 
  13. ^ Jeon, Kwang W. (1973). Biology of Amoeba. New York: Academic Press. p. 102. 
  14. ^ Jeon, Kwang W. (1973). Biology of Amoeba. New York: Academic Press. p. 100. 
  15. ^ Lahr DJ, Parfrey LW, Mitchell EA, Katz LA, Lara E (July 2011). "The chastity of amoebae: re-evaluating evidence for sex in amoeboid organisms". Proc. Biol. Sci. 278 (1715): 2083–6. doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.0289. PMC 3107637. PMID 21429931. 
  16. ^ a b "Amoeba". Scienceclarified.com. 
  17. ^ a b c d e Nishihara E, Yokota E, Tazaki A, et al. (March 2008). "Presence of aquaporin and V-ATPase on the contractile vacuole of Amoeba proteus". Biol. Cell 100 (3): 179–88. doi:10.1042/BC20070091. PMID 18004980. 
  18. ^ Patterson, D.J. (1981). "Contractile vacuole complex behaviour as a diagnostic character for free living amoebae". Protistologica 17: 243–248. 
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