The nematocyst's sting is driven by the tubule moving front

Sinwook Park, Gadi Piriatinskiy, Dan Zeevi, Jonathan Ben-David, Gilad Yossifon, Uri Shavit, Tamar Lotan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Thenematocyst is the explosive injection system of the phylumCnidaria, and is one of the fastest delivery systems found in Nature. Exploring its injection mechanism is key for understanding predator-prey interactions and protection against jellyfish stinging. Here we analyse the injection of jellyfish nematocysts and ask howthe build-up of the poly-g-glutamate (pgGlu) osmotic potential inside the nematocyst drives its discharge. To control the osmotic potential, we used a two-channel microfluidic system to direct the elongating nematocyst tubule through oil, where no osmotic potential can develop, while keeping the nematocyst capsule in water at all times. In addition, the flow inside the tubule and the pgGlu concentration profiles were calculated by applying a one-dimensional mathematical model. We found that tubule elongation through oil is orders of magnitude slower than through water and that the injection rate of the nematocyst content is reduced. These results imply that the capsule's osmotic potential is not sufficient to drive the tubule beyond the initial stage. Our proposed model shows that the tubule is pulled by the high osmotic potential that develops at the tubule moving front. This new understanding is vital for future development of nematocyst-based systems such as osmotic nanotubes and transdermal drug delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20160917
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number128
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grant no. IS-4576-13 from BARD, the United States-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund. J.B.-D. was supported by the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


  • Mass transfer modeling
  • Microfluidics
  • Nematocyst

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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