Courses for Kids
Free study material
Offline Centres
Store Icon


share icon
share icon

Nematocysts Meaning

IVSAT 2024

Nematocyst Definition: A nematocyte (also termed as a cnidoblast or cnidocyte) is an explosive cell which contains a cnidocyst (also recognized as a cnida (plural cnidae) or nematocyst), a giant secretory organelle which could sting other species. As per the nematocyst definition, the phylum Cnidaria is described by the existence of this cell (sea anemones, corals, jellyfish, shydrae, etc.). Cnidae have been used to catch prey and defend themselves from predators. The stings transmitted by a cnidarian are caused by a cnidocyte firing a structure which consists of a toxin inside the cnidocyst.

Nematocyst Structure and Function:

  • A cnida, ptychocyst, nematocyst, cnidocyst, or spirocyst is an organelle found across each cnidocyte. Each organelle is made up of a bulb-shaped capsule that is connected to a coiled hollow tubule structure. 

  • Cnidoblast or nematoblast refers to that of an immature cnidocyte. A hair-like stimulus named a cnidocil, which would be a mechano- and chemo-receptor, is found on the cell's externally focused side.

  • Once the trigger is pulled, the cnidocyst's tubular shaft is expelled, as well as the forcibly ejected tubule enters the target organism in the situation of the penetrant nematocyst. This discharge requires just a few microseconds and can achieve accelerations of up to 40,000 g.

  • The nematocyst's toxic material is injected into another target organism following penetration, enabling the sessile cnidarian to catch the immobilised prey. 

  • The type I neurotoxin protein Nv1 was discovered recently in ectodermal gland cells throughout the tentacles of two sea anemone organisms (Nematostella vectensis and Anthopleura elegantissima), and not in nematocyte.

  • When nematocysts come into contact with a crustacean prey, they discharge and pierce it, and neighboring gland cells secrete large amounts of Nv1, indicating another route for toxins to enter the body.

Cnidocyte Capsule Composition: Novel Cnidaria-specific genes combine termed protein domains to form the cnidocyte capsule. Minicollagen genes are among the capsule's most important structural elements. They're small genes with the familiar collagen triple helix sequence, and also cysteine-rich domains and polyproline domains.

Discharge Mechanism: When the trigger is enabled, the cnidocyst capsule retains a significant amount of calcium ions, that are discharged from the capsule into another cytoplasm of the cnidocyte. This results in a broad calcium concentration gradient all around the plasma membrane of the cnidocyte. A sudden influx of water into the cell is caused by the subsequent osmotic pressure. The coiled cnidae tubule is forced to expel quickly due to the rise in water volume throughout the cytoplasm. The coiled cnidae tubule remains within the cell in a "inside out" state prior to discharge.

Prey Detection: Cnidae are "single-use" cells, which means they use a lot of energy to do so. Cnidocytes are attached as "batteries' ' in Hydrozoans to control discharge, with many forms of cnidocytes attached to supporting neurons and cells. Chemosensors are located in the supporting cells, that, in conjunction with the mechanoreceptor mostly on cnidocyte (cnidocil), enable just the right combination of stimuli, including prey swimming and chemicals observed in prey cuticle or cutaneous tissue, to induce discharge. While sloughed off cnidae could be stimulated to fire separately, this stops the cnidarian from stinging themselves.

Types of Nematocysts:

Meaning of nematocysts have over 30 different forms of cnidae. They are classified into the following categories:

  • Penetrant: The penetrant, also known as the stenotele, is the biggest and therefore most complex of the nematocysts. Once it is released, it penetrates the prey's surface or chitinous exoskeleton and inserts a venomous fluid called hypnotoxin, which either paralyses or destroys the victim.

  • Glutinant: an adhesive layer contained on burrowing (tube) anemones that helps build the tube wherein the animal resides, known to as ptychocysts and then used to adhere to prey.

  • Volvent: The volvent, also known as the desmoneme, is indeed a pear-shaped nematocyst. It has a single loop formed by a spineless, short, dense, smooth, and elastic thread tube that is sealed towards the far end. It wraps closely from around prey after being discharged. They seem to be the tiniest nematocysts on the planet. A lasso-like string is shot at prey and coils across spirocysts, that are cellular projections on the prey.

Cnidocyte Development

Cnidocytes are single-use cells that must be replaced on a regular basis during an animal's life, with various modes of renewal depending on the species.

Modes of Renewal: Cnidocytes are formed in Hydra polyps from a particular population of stem cells called interstitial cells (I-cells), which are found inside the body column. Nematocysts in the early stages of development go through several rounds of mitosis without cytokinesis, resulting in nematoblast nests of 8, 16, 32, or 64 cells. Nematoblasts grow capsules after this expansion process. When the capsule is fully formed, the nests divide into individual nematocysts. 

The majority of them make their way to the tentacles, in which they are integrated into battery cells that house many nematocysts and neurons. Nematocysts firing is coordinated by battery cells.

Cnidocyst Maturation: The nematocyst develops from a giant post-Golgi vacuole via a multi-step assembly process. The capsule primordium is formed when vesicles from the Golgi apparatus merge together. Following vesicle fusion, a tubule emerges from the outside of the capsule and invaginates into the capsule. The production of long arrays with barbed spines onto the invaginated tubule would then be allowed by an advanced maturation process involving the condensation of spinalin proteins. Eventually, via the processing of poly—glutamate into the capsule matrix, a delayed maturation stage produces undischarged capsules during hyperosmotic strain.

Nematocyst Toxicity

Nematocysts are extremely powerful weapons. A single nematocyst was found to be enough to paralyse a tiny arthropod (Drosophila larva). The much more lethal cnidocytes are located on a box jellyfish's body. As per the Australian Institute of Marine Science, another member of such a family, the sea wasp Chironex fleckeri, is "said to become the most venomous marine animal known."

It might trigger excruciating pain throughout humans, as well as death in some cases. Many cnidarians, including the siphonophore Physalia physalis (Portuguese man o' war, "Bluebottle") and the jellyfish Cyanea capillata (the "Lion's Mane" popularised by Sherlock Holmes), might sting humans, causing excruciating pain and even death.

Aggregating sea anemones, from the other side, could have the mildest sting, possibly due to the nematocysts' failure to cross the surface, giving the sensation of hitting sticky candies. Cnidocytes are used by sea anemone and coral colonies to attack each other in order to safeguard or gain space, in addition to feeding and protection.Cnidarians, scorpions, and spiders all have venom that is species-specific. A material that is mildly poisonous to humans or even other mammals could be highly toxic to the venomous animal's natural prey or predators. New medicines, biopesticides, and bioinsecticides have all been developed using such precision.

The phylum Ctenophora (also known as "sea-gooseberries" or "comb jellies") includes animals that are translucent and jelly-like but lack nematocysts and are thus harmless to people.

Kleptocnidae (in contrast to kleptoplasty) has been observed in some sea slugs, including the nudibranch aeolids, in which the species accumulate nematocysts of consumed prey at just the edges of the cerata.

Want to read offline? download full PDF here
Download full PDF
Is this page helpful?

FAQs on Nematocyst

1. What Makes a Cnidocyte Different From a Nematocyst?

Ans. A nematocyst is found within the cnidocyte, while a cnidocyte is found on the creature's skin (or tentacles in the case of jellyfish). A nematocyst is indeed a bag-like and globular shaped subcell, while a cnidocyte is an inverted cell.

2. What are the Two Major Places Where Nematocysts Can Be Found?

Ans. Nematocyst cells are found across the mouth and tentacles and are used to immobilise prey by releasing toxins. They have coiled threads that might have barbs on them.

Competitive Exams after 12th Science