, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 45-57

Characterization of the Adhesive from Cuvierian Tubules of the Sea Cucumber Holothuria forskali (Echinodermata, Holothuroidea)

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Sea cucumbers possess a peculiar specialized defense system: the so-called Cuvierian tubules. The system is mobilized when the animal is mechanically stimulated, resulting in the discharge of a few white filaments, the tubules. Their great adhesivity, combined with their high tensile strength, allows Cuvierian tubules to entangle and immobilize potential predators. The cellular origin and composition of the Cuvierian tubule adhesive were investigated in the species Holothuria forskali by studying prints left on the substratum after mechanical detachment of the tubule. Polyclonal antibodies raised against tubule print material were used to locate the origin of tubule print constituents in the tubules. Extensive immunoreactivity was detected in the secretory granules of mesothelial granular cells, suggesting that their secretions make up the bulk of the adhesive material. Tubule print material consists of 60% proteins and 40% carbohydrates, a composition that is unique among the adhesive secretions of marine invertebrates. Although it is highly insoluble, a small fraction of this material can be extracted using denaturing buffers. Electrophoretic analysis of the extracts revealed that it contains about 10 proteins with apparent molecular masses ranging from 17 to 220 kDa and with closely related amino acid compositions, rich in acidic and in small side-chain amino acids. The adhesive from the Cuvierian tubules of H. forskali shares these characteristics with many marine bioadhesives and structural biomaterials.