Osmotically driven prey disintegration in the gastrovascular cavity of the green hydra by a pore-forming protein

Daniel Sher, Yelena Fishman, Naomi Melamed-Book, Mingliang Zhang, Eliahu Zlotkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pore-forming proteins (PFPs) are water-soluble proteins able to integrate into target membranes to form transmembrane pores. They are common determinants of bacterial pathogenicity and are often found in animal venoms. We recently isolated and characterized Hydralysins (Hlns), paralytic PFPs from the venomous green hydra Chlorohydra viridissima that are not found within the nematocytes, suggesting they are not involved in prey capture. The present study aimed to decipher the biological role of Hlns. Using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, we show that Hlns are expressed by digestive cells surrounding the gastrovascular cavity (GVC) of Chlorohydra and secreted onto the prey during feeding. At biologically relevant concentrations, Hlns bind prey membranes and form pores, lysing the cells and disintegrating the prey tissue. Hlns are unable to bind Chlorohydra membranes, thus protecting the producing animal from the destructive effect of its own cytolytic protein. We suggest that osmotic disintegration of the prey within the GVC by Hlns, followed by phagocytosis and intracellular digestion, allows the soft-bodied green hydra to feed on hard, cuticle-covered prey while lacking the physical means to mechanically disintegrate it. Our results extend the biological significance of PFPs beyond the commonly expected offensive or defensive roles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-214
Number of pages8
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Chemical ecology
  • Cnidaria
  • Digestion
  • Toxin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology


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