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Biol Bull. 2002 Aug;203(1):27-41.

Anatomical correlates of venom production in Conus californicus.

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Hopkins Marine Station and Department of Biological Sciences of Stanford University, Pacific Grove, California 93950, USA.


Like all members of the genus, Conus californicus has a specialized venom apparatus, including a modified radular tooth, with which it injects paralyzing venom into its prey. In this paper the venom duct and its connection to the pharynx, along with the radular sac and teeth, were examined using light and transmission electron microscopy. The general anatomy of the venom apparatus resembles that in other members of the genus, but several features are described that have not been previously reported for other species. The proximal (posterior) quarter of the venom duct is composed of a complex epithelium that may be specialized for active transport rather than secretion. The distal portion of the duct is composed of a different type of epithelium, suggestive of holocrine secretion, and the cells display prominent intracellular granules of at least two types. Similar granules fill the lumen of the duct. The passageway between the lumen of the venom duct and pharynx is a flattened branching channel that narrows to a width of 10 micro m and is lined by a unique cell type of unknown function. Granular material similar to that in the venom duct was also found in the lumen of individual teeth within the radular sac. Mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF) demonstrated the presence of putative peptides in material derived from the tooth lumen, and all of the more prominent species were also evident in the anterior venom duct. Radular teeth thus appear to be loaded with peptide toxins while they are still in the radular sac.

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