Oral Presentation Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution Conference 2016

Toxin composition in the tentacles of the Australian cold temperate sea anemone, Oulactis sp. (#76)

Michela L. Mitchell 1 , Rodrigo A. V. Morales 1 , Gerry Q. Tonkin-Hill 2 , Tony T. Papenfuss 2 , Anthony W. Purcell 3 , Raymond S. Norton 1
  1. Medicinal Chemistry, The Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  2. Bioinformatics Division, Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Research, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  3. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia

Cnidarians are one of the oldest known animal lineages (approx. 700 million years) with a specialised envenomation apparatus to deliver toxins. These toxins have proven potential as a basis for new pharmaceutical therapeutics. Knowledge is lacking, however, about the diversity of sea anemone toxins or their distribution in relation to morphological regions used in prey capture and defence/aggression. The toxins are delivered through specialised cells, the cnidae, which are broadly classified as spirocysts, holotrichs, basistrichs, mastigophores and atrichs, each performing a different biological function. In addition to the limited knowledge of toxin source and distribution, endemic Australian sea anemone fauna have not been examined for their toxins. We use a venomic strategy to examine the toxin content and body distribution of these molecules in the endemic Australian species Oulactis sp. The tentacle transcriptomes of three individuals were assembled from Illumina sequencing data. Identified toxins were further validated by mass spectrometry (MS/MS) and their distribution in the animal tissue determined via MALDI-IMS (Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization imaging). Consistent with previous studies of cnidarians, we have identified and located a number of toxins, including cytolysins, phospholipases, peptidases and ion channel modulators. The strategy employed here will be used to examine other body regions of Oulactis sp., significant for their unique cnidae profile, the actinopharnyx (throat), acrorhagi, mesenterial filaments and column. These data will aid our understanding of the functional evolution of sea anemone toxins and identify novel peptides that may be useful pharmaceutically.