TitleX-cell disease in Antarctic fishesAbstractA number of Antarctic fish species are affected by an unusual gill condition known as X-cell disease, named in reference to morphologically similar lesions of unknown aetiology reported from northern hemisphere fishes. Despite the disease being first recorded in Antarctic fishes over 25 years ago, no progress has been made in identifying its cause or in confirming any possible relationship with northern fishes. Although once thought to be a neoplasm, observations of lesions in non-Antarctic fishes point towards a parasitic origin. The life cycle of the proposed causal organism is unknown, however, and the only stages identified are those of the eponymous cells in the lesions. Here, we show X-cells in diseased gills of the Antarctic nototheniid Trematomus bernacchii represent multinucleate cysts of an unknown parasitic organism. Furthermore, we use molecular genetic methodology to show that the organism responsible is closely related to that identified in X-cell lesions of the common European dab, Limanda limanda and that the disease thus has a global distribution. Phylogenetic tree construction based on 18S rDNA sequences confirms that X-cell organisms form a group of closely related parasites, but robust positioning of the X-cell clade in the tree awaits more extensive genetic sequencing. â"' 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.