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Tissue Cell. 1990;22(5):629-43.

X-ray microanalysis of elements present in the matrix of cnidarian nematocysts.

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Zoological Institute, University of Züric-Ihrchel, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zürich/Switzerland.


The composition and concentration of elements, in particular those of metallic cations, present in the intracapsular matrix and the wall of nematocysts of various cnidarian species have been recorded by means of X-ray microanalysis performed on 100nm thick cryosections. The predominant cation detected in the nematocyst matrix of the hydrozoan Podocoryne carnea (medusa), the scyphozoan Aurelia aurita (scyphopolyp) and the anthozoan Calliactis parasitica (tentacles and acontia) is K(+). Mg(2+) prevails in tentacular cysts of Anthopleura elegantissima, Actinia equina and Anemonia viridis, whereas, the acrorhagial cysts of A. elegantissima and A. equina contain Ca(2+) instead of Mg(2+). The acrorhagial cysts of A. viridis contain Mg(2+) like those of the tentacles. In the tentacular nematocysts of Podocoryne carnea polyps (Hydrozoa) on the other hand ambiguous element contents were found indicating that the cysts of this species has no preference for a particular cation. The high values of sulfur recorded in the matrix and particularly the wall of all the cysts are reflecting the presence of numerous protein disulfide bonds within the structural components (wall, shaft, tubule) of the nematocysts.


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