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Heavy Metals Affect Nematocysts Discharge Response and Biological Activity of Crude Venom in the Jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca (Cnidaria, Scyphozoa)

July 30, 2014

Pollution of marine ecosystems and, specifically, heavy metals contamination may compromise the physiology of marine animals with events occurring on a cellular and molecular level. The present study focuses on the effect of short-term exposure to heavy metals like Zinc, Cadmium, Cobalt and Lanthanum (2-10 mM) on the homeostasis of Pelagia noctiluca (Cnidaria, Scyphozoa), a jellyfish abundant in the Mediterranean sea. This species possesses stinging organoids, termed nematocysts, whose discharge and concomitant delivery of venom underlie the survival of all Cnidaria. Nematocysts discharge response, elicited by combined chemico-physical stimulation, was verified on excised oral arms exposed to heavy metals for 20 min. In addition, the hemolytic activity of toxins, contained in the crude venom extracted from nematocysts isolated from oral arms, was tested on human erythrocytes, in the presence of heavy metals or their mixture. Treatment with heavy metals significantly inhibited both nematocysts discharge response and hemolytic activity of crude venom, in a dose-dependent manner, not involving oxidative events, that was irreversible in the case of Lanthanum. Our findings show that the homeostasis of Pelagia noctiluca, in terms of nematocysts discharge capability and effectiveness of venom toxins, is dramatically and rapidly compromised by heavy metals and confirm that this jellyfish is eligible as a model for ecotoxicological investigations.

Morabito R, Dossena S, La Spada G, Marino A, 2014: Heavy Metals Affect Nematocysts Discharge Response and Biological Activity of Crude Venom in the Jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca (Cnidaria, Scyphozoa), Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry, 34(2), 244-254, doi:10.1159/000362979. Article (subacription required).

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