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Nematocytes' discharge is triggered to perform both defense and predation strategies in cnidarians and occurs under chemico-physical stimulation. In this study, different compounds such as amino acids and proteins (mucin, albumin, poly-L: -lysine, trypsin), sugars and N-acetylate sugars (N-acetyl neuraminic acid, N-acetyl galactosamine, sucrose, glucose, agarose and trehalose), nucleotides (ATP and cAMP), were tested as chemosensitizers of nematocyte discharge in the oral arms of the scyphozoan Pelagia noctiluca, particularly abundant in the Strait of Messina (Italy). Excised oral arms were submitted to a combined chemico-physical stimulation by treatment with different compounds followed by mechanical stimulation by a non-vibrating test probe. Discharge induced by a chemico-physical stimulation was more significant than that obtained after mechanical stimulation alone. A chemosensitizing mechanism, with a dose-dependent effect, was observed after treatment with sugars, amino compounds such as glutathione, nucleotides and mucin, according to that already seen in sea anemones. Such findings suggest that, though Anthozoa and Scyphozoa exhibit different divergence times during the evolutionary process, the discharge activation exhibits common features, probably derived from their last common ancestor.


R Morabito, A Marino, G La Spada. Nematocytes' activation in Pelagia noctiluca (Cnidaria, Scyphozoa) oral arms. Journal of comparative physiology. A, Neuroethology, sensory, neural, and behavioral physiology. 2012 Jun;198(6):419-26

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PMID: 22526110

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