Incorporated nematocysts in Aeolidiella stephanieae (Gastropoda, Opisthobranchia, Aeolidoidea) mature by acidification shown by the pH sensitive fluorescing alkaloid Ageladine A.
The sequestration of nematocysts (a special group of cnidocysts) from cnidarian prey with subsequent use in defence is described for few metazoan phyla. Members of the taxon Aeolidoidea (Nudibranchia, Gastropoda) are well-known for this. Questions regarding the reasons some nematocysts do not discharge when the gastropod feeds and how these same nematocysts can be transported along the digestive tract into specialized morphological structures called cnidosacs, remain unanswered. Within the cnidosac, nematocysts are incorporated in cells and finally be used for defence against predators. The most plausible explanation for this phenomenon suggests there are immature and therefore non-functional nematocysts in the food. A recent study by Berking and Herrmann (2005) on cnidarians suggested that the nematocysts mature by acidification via proton transfer into the nematocyst capsule. According to this hypothesis only immature nematocysts are transported into the cnidosac where they are then made functional through an accumulation of protons. In this study we present a fluorescence staining method that tests the hypothesis by Berking and Herrmann (2005) and detects changes in the pH values of incorporated nematocysts, interpreted as changes in maturation stages. This marker, the fluorescent dye Ageladine A, stains nematocyst capsules according to their pH values. With Ageladine A we were able to show that kleptocnides indeed change their pH value after incorporation into the aeolidoidean cnidosac. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.