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Depuration of Tetrodotoxin and Changes in Bacterial Communities in Pleurobranchea maculata Adults and Egg Masses Maintained in Captivity

Abstract

Depuration of tetrodotoxin (TTX) was investigated in adult grey side-gilled sea slugs, Pleurobranchaea maculata, maintained in captivity on a TTX-free diet. Three adults were harvested every 21 days for 126 days, and TTX concentrations were measured in organs/tissues and egg masses. Automated rRNA intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA) was used to investigate bacterial community structure in selected samples. Linear modeling of adult data demonstrated a decline (P < 0.001) in average total TTX concentrations over time. Temporal data obtained from a wild population showed similar depuration rates, indicating that once adults reach a certain size, or sexual maturity, TTX is no longer produced or acquired substantially. Depuration rates differed among organs, with concentrations in the heart declining the fastest. The gonads had the slowest and least significant depuration rate indicating, at most, weak depuration of this tissue. There was a strong correlation (R 2 = 0.66) between TTX concentrations in the first-laid egg masses and total TTX in the corresponding adult. These data suggest that adult P. maculata transfer TTX to their offspring, and presumably that functions as a chemical defense. ARISA data showed a shift in bacterial community structure within 3 weeks of introduction to captivity. Based on the combined data, the exact origin of TTX in P. maculata is unclear, with evidence both in favor and against a dietary source, and endogenous or bacterial production.

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Acknowledgments

This research was funded by the Marsden fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand (UOW1002) and Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga (Project: 10RF18). We thank the Auckland Harbour Master and Jarrod Walker from the Auckland Council for assistance during P. maculata collections. P.M. is supported by a New Zealand Ministry for Science and Innovation Te Tipu Pūtaiao Ph.D. fellowship (CAWX0905). We are grateful to Janet Adamson (Cawthron) for technical assistance and Eric Bottos (Waikato University) and Eric Goodwin (Cawthron) for assistance with statistical analysis.

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Correspondence to Susanna A. Wood.

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Wood, S.A., Casas, M., Taylor, D.I. et al. Depuration of Tetrodotoxin and Changes in Bacterial Communities in Pleurobranchea maculata Adults and Egg Masses Maintained in Captivity. J Chem Ecol 38, 1342–1350 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10886-012-0212-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10886-012-0212-9

Keywords

  • Chemical defense
  • Depuration
  • Egg mass toxicity
  • Pleurobranchaea maculata
  • Tetrodotoxin