Jellyfish’s Stinging Cells Hold Clues To Biodiversity

According to a recent Cornell research published in the journal Cell, stinging cells called cnidocytes found in sea anemones, hydrae, corals, and jellyfish are excellent ways to learn about how new cell types originate. According to recent research published on May 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Leslie Babonis, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

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According to Babonis, the findings “highlight how new genes take on new responsibilities to enable species to adapt.” It’s probable that using existing cell types to undertake new duties is a key source of new cellular skills in the early days of animals.

Babonis emphasized understanding how specialized cell types are. 

Such as stinging cells, emerge in evolutionary biology. Scientists have known for over a century that the same stem cells that produce neurons also produce cnidocytes. However, they didn’t know how the stem cells choose whether to become neurons or cnidocytes. Babonis believes that understanding how this mechanism works in current cnidarians will help us understand how cnidocytes evolved.

Toxins may be released by cnidocytes, which are present in many species of Cnidaria and are named from the Greek word for “stinging nettle.” Cnidocytes may also be used to shock animals or frighten away intruders. According to Babonis, cnidocytes are exclusively found in cnidarians, although neurons are present in many species. So she and her colleagues investigated sea anemones, particularly cnidarians, at the University of Florida’s Whitney Lab for Marine Bioscience to learn how a neuron may be reprogrammed to become a whole new cell.

Jellyfish’s Stinging Cells Hold Clues To Biodiversity

According to Babonis, cnidocytes contain an explosive organelle, a tiny pocket inside the cell. This pocket contains the harpoon, which shoots out to harm you. Because the protein that creates these harpoons is uniquely present in cnidarians, cnidocytes seem to be a fantastic illustration of how new genes that code for unique proteins may drive the formation of new cell types.

Cnidocytes are formed in the starlet sea anemone Nematostella vectensis by converting neurons that had previously been employed for various purposes.

 It was discovered that a single regulatory gene present solely in cnidarians switched off brain function while activating cnidocyte-specific characteristics. According to Babonis, neurons and cnidocytes are both cells that may discharge chemicals. Neuropeptides are proteins that brain cells produce. They rapidly transmit signals between neurons and other cells. Cnidocytes manufacture poison-filled harpoons. According to Babonis, cnidocytes are formed when one gene is active, while neurons are formed when the gene is inactive. “There is a fairly easy method for controlling cell identification.” This is the first research to indicate that a cnidarian possesses this thinking. Therefore it is possible that it had a role in the evolution of the earliest multicellular species.

Babonis and her colleagues want to know how widespread this genetic off/on switch is in animals when it comes to forming new cell types. It is being investigated if the new cells that form coral skeletons originate from the same location. The National Science Foundation and NASA funded this research.

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