Localization and bioreactivity of cysteine-rich secretions in the marine gastropod nucella lapillus

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Marine biodiversity has been yielding promising novel bioproducts from venomous animals. Despite the auspices of conotoxins, which originated the paradigmatic painkiller Prialt, the biotechnological potential of gastropod venoms remains to be explored. Marine bioprospecting is expanding towards temperate species like the dogwhelk Nucella lapillus, which is suspected to secrete immobilizing agents through its salivary glands with a relaxing effect on the musculature of its preferential prey, Mytilus sp. This work focused on detecting, localizing, and testing the bioreactivity of cysteine-rich proteins and peptides, whose presence is a signature of animal venoms and poisons. The highest content of thiols was found in crude protein extracts from the digestive gland, which is associated with digestion, followed by the peribuccal mass, where the salivary glands are located. Conversely, the foot and siphon (which the gastropod uses for feeding) are not the main organs involved in toxin secretion. Ex vivo bioassays with Mytilus gill tissue disclosed the differential bioreactivity of crude protein extracts. Secretions from the digestive gland and peribuccal mass caused the most significant molecular damage, with evidence for the induction of apoptosis. These early findings indicate that salivary glands are a promising target for the extraction and characterization of bioactive cysteine-rich proteinaceous toxins from the species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number276
JournalMarine Drugs
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2021


  • Bioreactives
  • Dogwhelk
  • Gastropoda
  • Marine biotechnology
  • Thiols
  • Toxicity


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