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Jellyfish Sting Newsletters: Number 37 - July 2007


  1. Helmholz H, Ruhnau C, Schütt C, Prange A. Comparative study on the cell toxicity and enzymatic activity of two northern scyphozoan species Cyanea capillata (L.) and Cyanea lamarckii (Péron & Léslieur). Toxicon; 2007 50(1):53-64.

    Two species of venomous pelagic cnidaria are compared according to their enzymatic, cytotoxic and haemolytic potency. The widely distributed jellyfish Cyanea capillata and Cyanea lamarckii were collected in the North Sea at the coasts of the Orkney Island and the Island of Helgoland. Purified cnidocyst extracts from fishing and mesenteric tentacles were prepared and tested for their bioactivity. The haemolysis induced by toxins of C. capillata was determined with respect to organism size and toxigenic organs. The haemolytic activity of the related species C. lamarckii was documented for the first time. Dose dependent haemolytic activities have been detected by means of protein equivalents at concentrations above 20mug(protein)/mL. Extracts of fishing tentacle cnidocysts showed a less potent haemolytic activity compared to extracts of mesenteric tentacles. In vitro studies with permanent cells of a hepatoma cell line have shown a time and concentration dependent loss of cell vitality up to 90% at 33.3mug(protein)/mL (10mug(protein)/10(5) cells). Supplementing the cell based toxicity tests an enzyme assay was performed to measure a phospholipase A(2) (PLA(2)) activity. A PLA(2)-like activity could be demonstrated in cnidocysts extracts prepared from mesenteric and fishing tentacles of both jellyfish species.

  2. Garm A, Coates MM, Gad R, Seymour J, Nilsson DE. The lens eyes of the box jellyfish Tripedalia cystophora and Chiropsalmus sp. are slow and color-blind. J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2007; 193(5):547-57.

    Box jellyfish, or cubomedusae, possess an impressive total of 24 eyes of four morphologically different types. Compared to other cnidarians they also have an elaborate behavioral repertoire, which for a large part seems to be visually guided. Two of the four types of cubomedusean eyes, called the upper and the lower lens eye, are camera type eyes with spherical fish-like lenses. Here we explore the electroretinograms of the lens eyes of the Caribbean species, Tripedalia cystophora, and the Australian species, Chiropsalmus sp. using suction electrodes. We show that the photoreceptors of the lens eyes of both species have dynamic ranges of about 3 log units and slow responses. The spectral sensitivity curves for all eyes peak in the blue-green region, but the lower lens eye of T. cystophora has a small additional peak in the near UV range. All spectral sensitivity curves agree well with the theoretical absorbance curve of a single opsin, strongly suggesting color-blind vision in box jellyfish with a single receptor type. A single opsin is supported by selective adaptation experiments.

  3. Winter KL, Isbister GK, Seymour JE, Hodgson WC. An in vivo examination of the stability of venom from the Australian box jellyfish Chironex fleckeri. Toxicon 2007; 49(6):804-9.

    We have previously characterized the pharmacological activity of a number of jellyfish venoms with a particular emphasis on the profound cardiovascular effects. It has been suggested that jellyfish venoms are difficult to work with and are sensitive to pH, temperature and chemical changes. The current study aimed to examine the working parameters of the venom of the Australian box jellyfish Chironex fleckeri to enable fractionation and isolation of the toxins with cardiovascular activity. C. fleckeri venom was made up fresh each day and subjected to a number of different environments (i.e. a pH range of 5-9 and a temperature range of 4-30 degrees C). In addition, the effect of freeze drying and reconstituting the venom was investigated. Venom (50 microg/kg, i.v.) produced a transient hypertensive response followed by cardiovascular collapse in anaesthetised rats. This biphasic response was not significantly effected by preparation of the venom at a pH of 5, 7 or 9. Similarly, venom (50 microg/kg, i.v.) did not display a loss of activity when exposed to temperatures of 4, 20 or 30 degrees C for 1.5h. However, the cardiovascular activity was abolished by boiling the venom. Freeze drying, and then reconstituting, the venom did not significantly affect its cardiovascular activity. However, repeated freeze drying and reconstituting of extracted venom resulted in a significantly loss of activity. This study provides a more detailed knowledge of the parameters in which C. fleckeri venom can be used and, while supporting some previous studies, contradicts some of the perceived problems of working with the venom.

  4. Winter KL, Fernando R, Ramasamy S, Seymour JE, Isbister GK, Hodgson WC. The in vitro vascular effects of two chirodropid (Chironex fleckeri and Chiropsella bronzie) venoms. Toxicol Lett. 2007; 168(1):13-20.

    Clinical observations suggest a primary cardiotoxic role in fatal Chironex fleckeri stings. The limited research available indicates that Chiropsella bronzie venom acts in a similar manner although appears to be less potent. The aim of the present study was to elucidate the vascular effects of C. fleckeri and C. bronzie venoms using rat isolated aorta. Both venoms produced a sustained contraction of endothelium-denuded aorta which was not significantly affected by prazosin or box jellyfish antivenom. Felodipine significantly reduced the contractile response to C. fleckeri venom but not C. bronzie venom. Both venoms produced an initial relaxation (Phase 1), followed by a sustained contraction (Phase 2), in pre-contracted endothelium-intact aorta. Removal of the endothelium significantly inhibited both phases of the response. NOLA significantly inhibited Phase 1, but not Phase 2, of the response to both venoms. Atropine, HOE 140 or BQ 123 did not have any significant inhibitory effect on either phase. In conclusion, neither C. fleckeri nor C. bronzie venoms appear to contain components with activity at alpha(1)-adrenoceptors. Antivenom was ineffective in reversing the effects of the venom suggesting it is incapable of completely neutralizing nematocyst-derived venom. Determining the mechanism of action of these venoms will allow for the development of better treatment strategies.

  5. Kass-Simon G, Pierobon P. Kass-Simon G, Pierobon P. Cnidarian chemical neurotransmission, an updated overview. Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2007 ;146(1):9-25.

    The ultrastructural, histochemical, immunocytochemical, biochemical, molecular, behavioral and physiological evidence for non-peptidergic and peptidergic chemical neurotransmission in the Anthozoa, Hydrozoa, Scyphozoa and Cubozoa is surveyed. With the possible exception of data for the catecholamines and peptides in some animals, the set of cumulative data - the evidence from all methodologies - is incomplete. Taken together, the evidence from all experimental approaches suggests that both classical fast (acetylcholine, glutamate, GABA, glycine) and slow (catecholamines and serotonin) transmitters, as well as neuropeptides, are involved in cnidarian neurotransmission. Ultrastructural evidence for peptidergic, serotonergic, and catecholaminergic synaptic localization is available, but the presence of clear and dense-cored synaptic vesicles also suggests both fast and slow classical transmission. Immunocytochemical studies, in general, reveal a continuous, non-localized distribution of neuropeptides, suggesting a neuromodulatory role for them. Immunocytochemical and biochemical studies indicate the presence of glutamate, GABA, serotonin, catecholamines (and/or their receptors), RFamides, nitric oxide and eicosanoids in cnidarian neurons and tissues. Gene sequences for peptidergic preprohormones have been reported; putative gene homologies to receptor proteins for vertebrate transmitters have been found in Hydra. Behavioral and physiological studies implicate classical transmitters, neuropeptides, eicosanoids and nitric oxide in the coordination of the neuroeffector systems.

  6. Martin LE, Dawson MN, Bell LJ, Colin PL. Marine lake ecosystem dynamics illustrate ENSO variation in the tropical western Pacific. Biol Lett. 2006; 22;2(1):144-7

    Understanding El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and its biological consequences is hindered by a lack of high-resolution, long-term data from the tropical western Pacific. We describe a preliminary, 6 year dataset that shows tightly coupled ENSO-related bio-physical dynamics in a seawater lake in Palau, Micronesia. The lake is more strongly stratified during La Niña than El Niño conditions, temperature anomalies in the lake co-vary strongly with the Niño 3.4 climate index, and the abundance of the dominant member of the pelagic community, an endemic subspecies of zooxanthellate jellyfish, is temperature associated. These results have broad relevance because the lake: (i) illustrates an ENSO signal that is partly obscured in surrounding semi-enclosed lagoon waters and, therefore, (ii) may provide a model system for studying the effects of climate change on community evolution and cnidarian-zooxanthellae symbioses, which (iii) should be traceable throughout the Holocene because the lake harbours a high quality sediment record; the sediment record should (iv) provide a sensitive and regionally unique record of Holocene climate relevant to predicting ENSO responses to future global climate change and, finally, (v) seawater lake ecosystems elsewhere in the Pacific may hold similar potential for past, present, and predictive measurements of climate variation and ecosystem response.

  7. Radwan FFY, Aboul-Dahab HM. Milleporin-1, a new phospholipase A2 active protein from the fire coral Millepora platyphylla nematocysts. Comp Biochem Physiol 2004; 139:267-272.

    Stings of fire corals, potent hydroids common in the Red Sea, are known to cause severe pain and they develop burns and itching that lasts few hours after contact. Nematocyst venom of Millepora platyphylla (Mp-TX) was isolated according to a recent method developed in our laboratory to conduct a previous investigation on the nematocyst toxicity of Millepora dichotoma and M. platyphylla. In this study, Mp-TX was fractionated by using gel filtration and ion exchange chromatography. Simultaneous biological and bichemical assays were performed to monitor the hemolytic (using washed human red blood cells, RBC’s) and phospholipase A2 (using radiolabled sn-2 C14-arachidonyl phosphatidylcholine as a substrate) active venom fractions. The magnitude of both hemolysis and phospholipase A2 activity was found in a fraction rich of proteins of molecular masses ~30,000-34,000 Daltons. The former fraction was purified by ion exchange chromatography, and a major bioactive protein factor (approx. 32,500 Daltons, here named milleporin-1) was recovered. Milleporin-1 enzymatic activity showed a significant contribution to the overall hemolysis of human RBC’s. This activity, however, could not be completely inhibited using phospholipids substrates. Melliporin-1 fraction retained about 30% hemolysis, until totally rendered inactive when boiled for 3 min.

  8. de Souza LM, Iacomini M, Gorin PA, Sari RS, Haddad MA, Sassaki GL. Glyco- and sphingophosphonolipids from the medusa Phyllorhiza punctata: NMR and ESI-MS/MS fingerprints. Chem Phys Lipids 2007; 145(2):85-96.

    The medusa Phyllorhiza punctata has been found in Brazilian waters where it is an exotic species, having arrived in ballasts from the Indo-Pacific Ocean in the general region of North Australia and Indonesia. Fatty acids of the intact animal and its component umbrella, oral arms, and mucus were identified. Two different groups of glycolipids and a sphingolipid were isolated by silica-gel column chromatography and characterized using GC-MS, ESI-MS, 1D, 2D (13)C, (1)H and (31)P NMR spectroscopy. They were sulfoquinovosyldiacylglycerol (SQDG), monogalactosyldiacylglycerol (MGDG), and ceramide aminoethylphosphonate (CAEP). The CAEP long chain base (LCB) and its polar head group (PHG) formed by partial hydrolysis, were analyzed by ESI-MS/MS. The probable origin of MGDG and SQDG in the jellyfish is the result of an endosymbiotic association with a microalga of the Dinoflagellate group, since these lipids are commonly found in photosynthetic membranes.

  9. Underwood AH, Seymour JE. Venom ontogeny, diet and morphology in Carukia barnesi, a species of Australian box jellyfish that causes Irukandji syndrome. Toxicon. 2007; 49(8):1073-82.

    Venom profiles of two age groups of the medically important Australian box jellyfish Carukia barnesi [Southcott, R.V., 1967. Revision of some Carybdeidae (Scyphozoa, Cubomedusae), including description of jellyfish responsible for the 'Irukandji' syndrome. Aust. J. Zool. 15, 651-657] were compared. Sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis revealed differences in protein banding of tentacular venom between immature and mature animals. This correlates to a change in diet from invertebrate prey in immature C. barnesi medusae to vertebrate prey in mature medusae. Unlike other cubozoan studies, a change in venom did not equate to a change in nematocyst types or their relative frequencies. Additionally, comparison of tentacle structure and bell wart number showed developmental differences between the two age classes. Observations of prey capture in mature individuals and differences in bell warts between immature and mature medusae suggest different methods of prey capture are employed at different life stages of C. barnesi.

  10. Ulrich H, Landthaler M, Vogt T. Granulomatous jellyfish dermatitis. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges 2007; 5(6):493-495.

    The induction of a granulomatous inflammation by jellyfish toxins is rare. More typically, acute toxic and urticarial reactions are seen. An 11-year-old boy developed a striated urticarial erythema on the left cheek after contact with a gelatinous mass while swimming in the sea in Croatia. After initial erosion, striated induration developed in the area of contact. Histological examination revealed a granulomatous inflammation with some eosinophils. While topical steroid-based anti-inflammatory and antibacterial therapy over several weeks was not effective, topical therapy with tacrolimus 0.1% for two two-week treatment periods to healing of the skin changes with a slight scar. There was no clinical recurrence after 5 month of follow-up.

    The case of a striated lesion with two linear nodules on the cheeks is similar to that reported by Reed, et al., J Amer Acad Derm 1987;10:462-466. The present case responded to a 2 week course of tacrolimus topically but recurred a month later only to respond again to similar treatment. Perhaps a longer initial duration of therapy would have been successful. Only a few refractory granulomatous cases after jellyfish venom have been reorted.

    The discussion contains a few debateable reports. Anaphylaxis is rare after jellyfish stings. Only one documented case has been recognized (Togias et al., J Allergy & Clin Immunol, 1985;75:672-675). First aid using nematocyst arresting solutions is variable and species specific. Magnesium sulfate topically is worthless but intravenously it yields variable results only for Irukandji. The barrier sunscreen topical agent efficacy has not been corroborated (Burnett, Dermatitis, 2005). The inclusion of erythema nodosum following a jellyfish sting is unsubstantiated. The paper entitled Erythema nodosum following a jellyfish sting was written by Auerbach and Hays (J. Emerg Med 1987;5:487-491). We suspect that more reviewers read the title than the article text. That patient developed an erythematous nodular eruption on the legs but saw no jellyfish, experience no pain, was not examined by a dermatologist nor had a biopsy taken from the lesion. The contents of this column will be placed in a letter. The responsible culprit in this report was probably Pelagia noctiluca.