Gill cell toxicity of northern boreal scyphomedusae Cyanea capillata and Aurelia aurita measured by an in vitro cell assay


Scyphozoan medusae are very successful foragers which occasionally occur in high abundances in boreal waters and may impact many different groups in the marine ecosystem by means of a variety of toxins. A rainbow trout gill cell line, RTgill-W1, was tested for its suitability as quantitative indicator of the cytotoxicity of Cyanea capillata and Aurelia aurita; the major scyphozoan species in the North and Baltic seas. Cultures of rainbow trout gill cells were exposed to whole venoms extracted from fishing tentacles and oral arms at increasing protein concentrations. The venom caused detachment, clumping and lysis of cells, as well as a drop in vitality, in a dose-dependent manner. Morphological changes in the cells were evident within 1 h after venom addition. The damage to gill cells was quantified by measuring the metabolic activity of the cells by means of the fluorescence of resorufin derived from the nonfluorescent substrate, resazurin. In general, a decrease in the metabolic activity of the cells was detected at a venom (protein) concentration above 2.0 μg ml−1 (corresponding to 0.2 μg 104 cells−1), and a total loss of activity was observed above 40.0 μg ml−1 (corresponding to 4.0 μg 104 cells−1). C. capillata venoms had increased cytotoxic activity as compared to A. aurita venoms at the same concentration. Cnidocyst extracts from oral arms of A. aurita induced an 85% loss of gill cell viability at concentrations of 0.2 μg 104 cells−1, whereas crude venoms from fishing tentacles reduced cell viability by 18% at the same concentration. Gel electrophoresis of the venoms indicated that these consist of a large number of proteins in a fairly wide size range, from 6 to 200 kDa, including some that are the same size as those found in cubomedusae. It also appears that larger (i.e., older) medusae have more complex venoms and, in some cases, more potent venoms than smaller animals.
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