Compositions of extractive components in the testes and ovaries of various sea urchins: comparisons among species, sexes, and maturational status

  • Yuko MurataEmail author
  • Hirokazu Yoshimura
  • Tatsuya Unuma
Original Article Food Science and Technology


We investigated the compositions of free amino acids (FAAs), organic acids (OAs), and nucleotides and their related compounds (NAs) in the gonads of edible sea urchins in Japan. In Hemicentrotus pulcherrimus and Pseudocentrotus depressus, glycine, alanine, lysine, and arginine were abundant FAAs in both sexes before gametogenesis. As gametogenesis proceeded, glycine and threonine showed increasing trends while arginine and histidine showed decreasing trends in both species regardless of sex. Alanine and serine in H. pulcherrimus and isoleucine in P. depressus showed increasing trends regardless of sex. Some other FAAs showed different trends between the sexes. Among the OAs and NAs, adenosine monophosphate, inosine monophosphate, and acetic acid were relatively abundant in H. pulcherrimus testes and ovaries before gametogenesis. In Heliocidaris crassispina, Strongylocentrotus intermedius, and Mesocentrotus nudus, glycine was commonly the most abundant FAA followed by alanine and arginine in the testes and ovaries during early gametogenesis. Compared to the other species, testes and ovaries of Tripneustes gratilla contained lower amounts of arginine and higher amounts of serine and proline. The results of this study could contribute to the development of the aquaculture and seafood industry for sea urchins by accounting for the variation in gonad taste among species, sexes, and according to their maturational status.


Gonads Gametogenesis Heliocidaris crassispina Hemicentrotus pulcherrimus Mesocentrotus nudus Pseudocentrotus depressus Strongylocentrotus intermedius Tripneustes gratilla 



We are grateful to Daisaku Masuda at the Nagasaki Prefectural Institute of Fisheries, Shintaro Hirata at the Ishidacho Fisheries Cooperative Association, Tadamitsu Igari at the Kagoshima Prefectural Fisheries Technology and Development Center, and Hiroshi Hoshikawa, Minoru Kimura, and Satoshi Iida at the Hokkaido Research Organization for collecting wild sea urchins. We also thank Atsushi Yukutake at the Fukuoka Prefectural Fish Farming Center for providing us with the juvenile P. depressus, and Akemi Sakaguchi at the National Research Institute of Fisheries Science for technical assistance. Part of this study was conducted as part of the research project, Research and Development Projects for Application in the New Policy of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan. The remainder was financially supported by the Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency.

Supplementary material

12562_2019_1388_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (67 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 66 kb)


  1. Chen Y-C, Chen T-U, Chiou T-K, Hwang D-F (2013) Seasonal variation on general composition, free amino acids and fatty acids in the gonad of Taiwan’s sea urchin Tripneustes gratilla. J Mar Sci Technol 21:723–732Google Scholar
  2. Dincer T, Cakli S (2007) Chemical composition and biometrical measurements of the Turkish sea urchin (Paracentrotus lividus, Lamarck, 1816). Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 27:21–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Fuji A (1960) Studies on the biology of the sea urchin. I. Superficial and histological gonadal changes in gametogenic process of two sea urchins, Strongylocentrotus nudus and S. intermedius. Bull Fac Fish Hokkaido Univ 11:1–14Google Scholar
  4. Fuke S, Konosu S (1989) Taste-active components of a few species of bivalves. In: Kawamura Y (ed) Society for research on Umami Taste ’89 forum. Society for Research on Umami Taste, Tokyo, pp 85–91Google Scholar
  5. Fuke S, Ueda Y (1996) Interactions between umami and other flavor characteristics. Trends Food Sci Technol 7:407–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hayashi T, Yamaguchi K, Konosu S (1981) Sensory analysis of taste-active components in the extract of boiled snow crab meat. J Food Sci 46:479–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hirano T, Yamazawa S, Suyama M (1978) Chemical composition of gonad extract of the sea urchin Stronglyocentrotus nudus. Nippon Suisan Gakkaishi 44:1037–1040 (in Japanese with English abstract) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Imai T (1995) Studies on the sea urchin propagation in central Japan. Spec Rep Kanagawa Prefect Fish Exp Stn 6:90 (in Japanese with English abstract) Google Scholar
  9. Inomata E, Murata Y, Matsui T, Agatsuma Y (2016) Gonadal production and quality in the sea urchin Mesocentrotus nudus fed a high-protein concentrated red alga Pyropia yezoensis. Aquaculture 454:184–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kawai M, Uneyama H, Miyano H (2009) Taste-active components in foods, with concentration on umami compounds. J Health Sci 55:667–673CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kawai M, Sekine-Hayakawa Y, Okiyama A, Ninomiya Y (2012) Gustatory sensation of l- and d-amino acids in humans. Amino Acids 43:2349–2358PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Komata Y, Eguchi H (1962) Studies on the extractives of “uni”. II. Nucleic acids and organic bases. Bull Jpn Soc Sci Fish 28:630–635 (in Japanese with English abstract) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Komata Y, Kosugi N, Ito T (1962a) Studies on the extractives of “uni”. I. Free amino acid composition. Bull Jpn Soc Sci Fish 28:623–629 (in Japanese with English abstract) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Komata Y, Mukai A, Okada Y (1962b) Studies on the extractives of “uni”. III. Organic acids and carbohydrates. Bull Jpn Soc Sci Fish 28:747–750 (in Japanese with English abstract) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Komata Y (1964) Studies on the extractives of “uni”. IV. Taste of each component in the extractives. Bull Jpn Soc Sci Fish 30:749–756 (in Japanese with English abstract) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Konosu S (1973) Taste of fish and shellfish with special reference to taste-producing substances. Nippon Shokuhin Kogyo Gakkaishi 20:432–439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Konosu S, Watanabe K, Koriyama T, Shiral T, Yamaguchi K (1988) Extractive components of scallop and identification of its taste-active components by omission test (taste-active components of scallop part I). Nippon Shokuhin Kogyo Gakkaishi 35:252–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lee YZ, Haard NF (1982) Evaluation of the green sea urchin gonads as a food source. Can Inst Food Sci Technol J 15:233–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Liyana-Pathirana C, Shahidi F, Whittick A, Hooper R (2002) Effect of season and artificial diet on amino acids and nucleic acids in gonads of green sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. Comp Biochem Physiol 133A:389–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Murata Y, Henmi H, Nishioka F (1994) Extractive components in the skeletal muscle from ten different species of scombroid fishes. Fish Sci 60:473–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Murata Y, Sata UN (2000) Isolation and structure of pulcherrimine, a novel bitter-tasting amino acid, from the sea urchin (Hemicentrotus pulcherrimus) ovaries. J Agric Food Chem 48:5557–5560PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Murata Y, Sata NU, Yokoyama M, Kuwahara R, Kaneniwa M, Oohara I (2001) Determination of a novel bitter amino acid, pulcherrimine, in the gonad of the green sea urchin Hemicentrotus pulcherrimus. Fish Sci 67:341–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Murata Y, Yokoyama M, Unuma T, Sata NU, Kuwahara R, Kaneniwa M (2002) Seasonal changes of bitterness and pulcherrimine content in gonads of green sea urchin Hemicentrotus pulcherrimus at Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture. Fish Sci 68:184–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Osako K, Hossain MA, Ruttanapornvareesakul Y, Fujii A, Kuwahara K, Okamoto A, Nagano N (2006a) The aptitude of the green alga Ulva pertusa as a diet for purple sea urchin Anthocidaris crassispina. Aquac Sci 54:15–23Google Scholar
  25. Osako K, Kiriyama T, Ruttanapornvareesakul Y, Kuwahara K, Okamoto A, Nagano N (2006b) Free amino acid compositions of the gonad of the wild and cultured sea urchins Anthocidaris crassispina. Aquac Sci 54:301–304Google Scholar
  26. Osako K, Fujii A, Ruttanapornvareesakul Y, Nagano N, Kuwahara K, Okamoto A (2007) Differences in free amino acid composition between testis and ovary of sea urchin Anthocidaris crassispina during gonadal development. Fish Sci 73:660–667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Phillips K, Bremer P, Silcock P, Hamid N, Delahunty C, Barker M, Kissick J (2009) Effect of gender, diet and storage time on the physical properties and sensory quality of sea urchin (Evechinus chloroticus) gonads. Aquaculture 288:205–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Phillips K, Hamid N, Silcock P, Delahunty C, Barker M, Bremer P (2010a) Effect of season on the sensory quality of sea urchin (Evechinus chloroticus) roe. J Food Sci 75:20–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Phillips K, Hamid N, Silcock P, Sewell MA, Barker M, Weaver A, Then S, Delahunty C, Bremer P (2010b) Effect of manufactured diets on the yield, biochemical composition and sensory quality of Evechinus chloroticus sea urchin gonads. Aquaculture 308:49–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sata UN, Kuwahara R, Murata Y (2001) Synthesis of all isomers of pulcherrimine, a bitter principle in the sea urchin ovary. Tetrahedron Lett 42:115–118Google Scholar
  31. Takagi S, Murata Y, Inomata E, Endo H, Aoki NM, Agatsuma Y (2017) Improvement of gonad quality of the sea urchin Mesocentrotus nudus fed the kelp Saccharina japonica during offshore cage culture. Aquaculture 477:50–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Takagi S, Murata Y, Inomata E, Endo H, Aoki NM, Agatsuma Y (2018) Dietary effect of kelp (Saccharina japonica) on gonad quantity and quality in sea urchins (Mesocentrotus nudus) collected from a barren before the fishing season. J Shellfish Res 37:659–669CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Unuma T (2002) Gonadal growth and its relationship to aquaculture in sea urchins. In: Yokota Y et al (eds) The sea urchin: from basic biology to aquaculture. Swets & Zeitlinger, Lisse, pp 115–127Google Scholar
  34. Unuma T, Yamamoto T, Akiyama T, Shiraishi M, Ohta H (2003) Quantitative changes in yolk protein and other components in the ovary and testis of the sea urchin Pseudocentrotus depressus. J Exp Biol 206:365–372PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. Unuma T, Walker CW (2009) Relationship between gametogenesis and food quality in sea urchin gonads. In: Proceedings of the 36th U.S.–Japan Aquaculture Panel Symposium, pp 45–54Google Scholar
  36. Unuma T (2015) Introduction: sea urchin fisheries in Japan. In: Brown NP, Eddy SD (eds) Echinoderm aquaculture. Wiley, Hoboken, pp 77–85Google Scholar
  37. Unuma T, Murata Y, Hasegawa N, Sawaguchi S, Takahashi K (2015) Improving the food quality of sea urchins collected from barren grounds by short-term aquaculture under controlled temperature. Bull Fish Res Agency 40:145–153Google Scholar
  38. Walker CW, Lesser MP, Unuma T (2013) Sea urchin gametogenesis—structural, functional and molecular/genomic biology. In: Lawrence JM (ed) Sea urchins: biology and ecology, 3rd edn. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 25–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Walker CW, Böttger SA, Unuma T, Watts SA, Harris LG, Lawrence AL, Eddy SD (2015) Enhancing the commercial quality of edible sea urchin gonads—technologies emphasizing nutritive phagocytes. In: Brown NP, Eddy SD (eds) Echinoderm aquaculture. Wiley, Hoboken, pp 263–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Watanabe K, Lan H-L, Yamaguchi K, Konosu S (1990) Role of extractive components of scallop in its characteristic taste development (taste-active components of scallop. Part II). Nippon Shokuhin Kogyo Gakkaishi 37:439–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Yamaguchi S (1967) The synergistic taste effect of monosodium glutamate and disodium 5′-inosinate. J Food Sci 32:473–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Yoshii K (1987) Synergistic effects of 5′-nucleotides on rat taste responses to various amino acids. In: Kawamura Y, Kare MR (eds) Umami: a basic taste. Dekker, New York, pp 219–232Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Japanese Society of Fisheries Science 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuko Murata
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hirokazu Yoshimura
    • 2
  • Tatsuya Unuma
    • 3
  1. 1.National Research Institute of Fisheries ScienceJapan Fisheries Research and Education AgencyYokohamaJapan
  2. 2.Fukui Prefectural Fisheries Experimental StationObamaJapan
  3. 3.Kushiro Laboratory, Hokkaido National Fisheries Research InstituteJapan Fisheries Research and Education AgencyKushiroJapan

Personalised recommendations