What makes a giant jellyfish’s sting deadly

0
25
What makes a giant jellyfish’s sting deadly

With summer on the way, and some beaches reopening after COVID-19 shutdowns, people will be taking to the ocean to cool off on a hot day. But those unlucky enough to encounter the giant jellyfish Nemopilema nomurai (also known as Nomura’s jellyfish) might wish they had stayed on shore. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research have identified the key toxins that make the creature’s venom deadly to some swimmers.

Found in coastal waters of China, Korea and Japan, Nomura’s jellyfish can grow up to 6.6 feet in diameter and weigh up to 440 pounds. This behemoth stings hundreds of thousands of people per year, causing severe pain, redness, swelling, and in some cases, even shock or death. The jellyfish’s venom is a complex brew of numerous toxins, some of which resemble poisons found in other organisms, such as snakes, spiders, bees and bacteria. Rongfeng Li, Pengcheng Li and colleagues wanted to determine which of the many toxins in the jellyfish’s venom actually cause death. The answer could help scientists develop drugs to counteract jellyfish stings.

The researchers captured N. nomurai jellyfish off the coast of Dalian, China, and collected their tentacles, which contain the venom. They extracted venom proteins and separated them into different fractions using chromatography. By injecting each protein fraction into mice, the team identified one that killed the animals. Autopsies revealed damage to the mice’s heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. The researchers used mass spectrometry to identify 13 toxin-like proteins in this lethal fraction. Some of the jellyfish proteins were similar to harmful enzymes and proteins found in poisonous snakes, spiders and bees. Instead of any one toxin being lethal, it’s likely that multiple poisons work in concert to cause death, the researchers say.

###

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Shandong Province Natural Science Foundation of China and National Key R&D Plan of China.

The abstract that accompanies this paper can be viewed here.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS’ mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people. The Society is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a specialist in scientific information solutions (including SciFinder® and STN®), its CAS division powers global research, discovery and innovation. ACS’ main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us: Twitter | Facebook

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here