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Concept: Holothuroidea


Since the discovery of saponins in sea cucumbers, more than 150 triterpene glycosides have been described for the class Holothuroidea. The family Holothuriidae has been increasingly studied in search for these compounds. With many species awaiting recognition and formal description this family currently consists of five genera and the systematics at the species-level taxonomy is, however, not yet fully understood. We provide a bibliographic review of the triterpene glycosides that has been reported within the Holothuriidae and analyzed the relationship of certain compounds with the presence of Cuvierian tubules. We found 40 species belonging to four genera and 121 compounds. Holothurin A and B are the most common saponins for Actinopyga, Holothuria, and Pearsonothuria. The genus Bohadschia presents mainly bivittoside C and D. Actinopyga has only sulfated saponins mainly oxidized, Bohadschia non-sulfated ones mainly non-oxidized, Holothuria and Pearsonothuria contain both types of compounds, mainly oxidized. Within the genus Holothuria, the subgenus Panningothuria only has non-sulfated saponins. The presence of sulfated and non-sulfated compounds seemingly relates to the expellability or the absence of Cuvierian tubules and the temporal or permanent concealing habits of the species. Our study concludes that better insights into the systematic distribution of saponins in Holothuriidae will only be possible if the identifications of the investigated species are confirmed by a taxonomist, especially in this group wherein cryptic species and variation between life-history stages are common and yet poorly understood. Understanding of saponin distribution within the Holothuriidae would also benefit from a stabilization of triterpene glycoside nomenclature.

Concepts: Species, Taxonomy, Binomial nomenclature, Taxonomic rank, International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, Sea cucumber, Systematics, Holothuroidea


Sea cucumbers and their extracts have gained immense popularity and interest among researchers and nutritionists due to their nutritive value, potential health benefits, and use in the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases. Many areas of the world use sea cucumbers in traditional foods and folk medicine. Though the actual components and their specific functions still remain to be investigated, most sea cucumber extracts are being studied for their anti-inflammatory functions, immunostimulatory properties, and for cancer prevention and treatment. There is large scope for the discovery of additional bioactive, valuable compounds from this natural source. Sea cucumber extracts contain unique components, such as modified triterpene glycosides, sulfated polysaccharides, glycosphingolipids, and esterified phospholipids. Frondanol A5, an isopropyl alcohol/water extract of the enzymatically hydrolyzed epithelia of the edible North Atlantic sea cucumber, Cucumaria frondosa, contains monosulfated triterpenoid glycoside Frondoside A, the disulfated glycoside Frondoside B, the trisulfated glycoside Frondoside C, 12-methyltetradecanoic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and fucosylated chondroitin sulfate. We have extensively studied the efficacy of this extract in preventing colon cancer in rodent models. In this review, we discuss the anti-inflammatory, immunostimulatory, and anti-tumor properties of sea cucumber extracts.

Concepts: Inflammation, Protein, Cancer, Metabolism, Fatty acid, Anti-inflammatory, Glycosidic bond, Holothuroidea


Market preferences of natural resources contribute to shape their exploitation and production. Beche-de-mer, the product after gutting, cooking, salting and drying sea cucumbers, is exported worldwide to Asian dried seafood markets. A better understanding of the trade, value and market preferences of Pacific island beche-de-mer could identify critical postharvest processing techniques and management strategies for fisheries and aquaculture. Data were collected on export prices and trade of beche-de-mer from Kiribati, Fiji, Tonga and New Caledonia, and the selling prices, respective sizes and organoleptic properties of the products in stores in China. Export prices varied considerably within and among the four countries and low-value species were the most exported by volume. Most of the beche-de-mer from the four Pacific islands is exported to Hong Kong, where quality products are sold and others are distributed to mainland China. Prices of the beche-de-mer in Chinese stores varied up to ten-fold and were mostly influenced by species, body size and, to a lesser extent, physical damage to the products. Market prices across species (averaging US$15-385 kg-1) appear to have mostly increased six- to twelve-fold over the past decade. The data allude that fisheries for Holothuria scabra, H. lessoni, H. fuscogilva, H. whitmaei and Thelenota ananas should be most carefully managed because they were the highest-value species and under greatest demand. The relationships between size of beche-de-mer and sale price were species specific and highly varied. This study also highlights the need for better regulations and/or enforcement of minimum size limits in sea cucumber fisheries, which can help to maximise economic benefits of wild stocks.

Concepts: New Zealand, Pacific Ocean, Oceania, Price, Seafood, Trade, Hong Kong, Holothuroidea


Melanoma is a highly aggressive and deadly cancer with a poor prognosis given its drug resistance. A defect in apoptosis is one of the key mechanisms that contribute to drug resistance in Melonama. An important sea marine animal is the Holothuria parva, also known as the sea cucumber, which has various pharmacological activities. Compounds obtained from sea cucumbers have shown to have anticancer activity through induction of apoptosis singling.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Chemical polarity, Iran, Persian Gulf, Iraq, Holothuroidea


Neuropeptides synthesized and released by neuronal cells play important roles in the regulation of many processes, e.g. growth, feeding, reproduction, and behavior. In the past decade, next-generation sequencing technologies have helped to facilitate the identification of multiple neuropeptide genes in a variety of taxa, including arthropods, molluscs and echinoderms. In this study, we extend these studies to Holothuria scabra, a sea cucumber species that is widely cultured for human consumption. In silico analysis of H. scabra neural and gonadal transcriptomes enabled the identification of 28 transcripts that encode a total of 26 bilaterian and echinoderm-specific neuropeptide precursors. Furthermore, publicly available sequence data from another sea cucumber, Holothuria glaberrima, allowed a more in-depth comparative investigation. Interestingly, two isoforms of a calcitonin-type peptide precursor (CTPP) were deduced from the H. scabra transcriptome - HscCTPP-long and HscCTPP-short, likely the result of alternative splicing. We also identified a sea cucumber relaxin-type type peptide precursor, which is of interest because relaxin-type peptides have been shown to act as gonadotropic hormones in starfish. Two neuropeptides that appear to be holothurian-specific are GLRFA, and GN-19. In H. scabra, the expression of GLRFA was restricted to neural tissues, while GN-19 expression was additionally found in the longitudinal muscle and intestinal tissues. In conclusion, we have obtained new insights into the neuropeptide signaling systems of holothurians, which will facilitate physiological studies that may enable advances in the aquaculture of sea cucumbers.

Concepts: Neuron, Gene expression, Molecular biology, RNA splicing, Echinoderms, Sea cucumber, Holothuroidea


Exploration of deep-sea mineral resources is burgeoning, raising concerns regarding ecotoxicological impacts on deep-sea fauna. Assessing toxicity in deep-sea species is technologically challenging, which promotes interest in establishing shallow-water ecotoxicological proxy species. However, the effects of temperature and hydrostatic pressure on toxicity, and how adaptation to deep-sea environmental conditions might moderate these effects, are unknown. To address these uncertainties we assessed behavioural and physiological (antioxidant enzyme activity) responses to exposure to copper-spiked artificial sediments in a laboratory experiment using a shallow-water holothurian (Holothuria forskali), and in an in situ experiment using a deep-sea holothurian (Amperima sp.). Both species demonstrated sustained avoidance behaviour, evading contact with contaminated artificial sediment. However, A. sp. demonstrated sustained avoidance of 5mgl(-1) copper-contaminated artificial sediment whereas H. forskali demonstrated only temporary avoidance of 5mgl(-1) copper-contaminated artificial sediment, suggesting that H. forskali may be more tolerant of metal exposure over 96h. Nonetheless, the acute behavioural response appears consistent between the shallow-water species and the deep-sea species, suggesting that H. forskali may be a suitable ecotoxicological proxy for A. sp. in acute (≤24h) exposures, which may be representative of deep-sea mining impacts. No antioxidant response was observed in either species, which was interpreted to be the consequence of avoiding copper exposure. Although these data suggest that shallow-water taxa may be suitable ecotoxicological proxies for deep-sea taxa, differences in methodological and analytical approaches, and in sex and reproductive stage of experimental subjects, require caution in assessing the suitability of H. forskali as an ecotoxicological proxy for A. sp. Nonetheless, avoidance behaviour may have bioenergetic consequences that affect growth and/or reproductive output, potentially impacting fecundity and/or offspring fitness, and thus influencing source-sink dynamics and persistence of wider deep-sea populations.

Concepts: Psychology, Reproduction, Sediment, Sedimentary rock, Experiment, Behavior, In situ, Holothuroidea


The proximate composition and mineral contents of Stichopus horrens and Holothuria arenicola from Chabahar Bay were analyzed and investigated. During the present study, we aimed to demonstrate the nutritive value. The approximate percent composition of moisture, protein, fat, and ash were 92.8, 3.47, 0.4, and 3.33% in S. horrens and 93, 4.4, 0.6, and 2% in H. arenicola, respectively. Atomic absorption spectrophotometry of the ashes indicated the body wall of two species of sea cucumbers contained higher amounts of both macro minerals (92.5 mg/100 g Mg in S. horrens and 115 mg/100 g Mg in H. arenicola; 106.25 mg/100 g Ca in S. horrens and 83.25 mg/100 g Ca in H. arenicola) and trace elements (521.781 mg/100 g Fe in S. horrens; 60.354 mg/100 g Fe in H. arenicola, and 0.096 mg/100 g Zn in S. horrens; 0.04 mg/100 g Zn in H. arenicola). For both species, there were high content of protein and essential mineral. Also, they have low content of fat in the body wall of two species in the experiment.

Concepts: Protein, Spectroscopy, Metabolism, Nutrition, Dietary mineral, Mineral, Analytical chemistry, Holothuroidea


A fucosylated chondroitin sulfate (FCS) CF was isolated from the sea cucumber Cucumaria frondosa and purified by anion-exchange chromatography. Chemical and NMR spectroscopic methods were applied for the structural characterization of this biopolymer. The backbone of CF was found to consist of chondroitin sulfate A and E fragments together with rather uncommon disaccharide repeating units →3)-β-d-GalNAc4S6S-(1→4)-β-d-GlcA3S-(1→ and →3)-β-d-GalNAc4S-(1→4)-β-d-GlcA3S-(1→. Three types of branches were found in molecules of CF. Two of them were identified as α-l-Fuc p3S4S and α-l-Fuc p2S4S attached to O-3 of Glc pA residues, while the third one was per-O-sulfated α-l-Fuc p linked to O-6 of Gal pNAc residue. The ratio of these branches was 5:2:1. According to these data, CF has more complicated structure than the corresponding FCS, isolated from the same holothurian species and described previously (Liu et al., 2016). The presence of new structural features both in the backbone and in branches of CF gives an additional example of structural variability within holothurian FCS.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Chondroitin sulfate, Structure, Ratio, Galactose, Ratio distribution, Sea cucumber, Holothuroidea


Six new monosulfated triterpene glycosides, cladolosides I1 (1), I2 (2), J1 (3), K1 (4), K2 (5) and L1 (6) were isolated from the tropical Indo-West Pacific sea cucumber Cladolabes schmeltzii (Cladolabinae, Sclerodactylidae, Dendrochirotida). Structures of these glycosides were elucidated by 2D NMR spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. Four new types of carbohydrate chains have been found in 1-6. Cladolosides of the groups I and J are characterized by pentasaccharide carbohydrate chains sulfated at a terminal 3-O-methylglucose residue and branched by the position 4 of the first xylose residue, but differing from each other in the lengths of the main and side carbohydrate chains. Cladolosides of the groups K and L contain hexasaccharide chains with different positions of a sulfated terminal 3-O-methylglucose residue (as the fourth or the sixth monosaccharide residue). Sulfated hexasaccharide carbohydrate chains were found in the sea cucumbers glycosides for the first time. A pentasaccharide carbohydrate chain of cladoloside J1 (3) having a disaccharide moiety of glucose and a sulfated 3-O-methylglucose linked to the first xylose residue in a linear trisaccharide fragment is also unusual. All substances studied demonstrated strong or moderate hemolytic and cytotoxic effects.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Glucose, Carbohydrate, Disaccharide, Monosaccharide, Holothuroidea


Despite their soft body and slow motion, sea cucumbers present a low predation rate, reflecting the presence of efficient defence systems. For instance, members of the family Holothuriidae rely on Cuvierian tubules for their defence. These tubules are normally stored in the posterior coelomic cavity of the animal, but when the sea cucumber is threatened by a potential predator, they are expelled through the cloacal aperture, elongate, become sticky and entangle and immobilize the predator in a matter of seconds. The mechanical properties (extensibility, tensile strength, stiffness and toughness) of quiescent (i.e. in the body cavity) and elongated (i.e. after expulsion) Cuvierian tubules were investigated in the species Holothuria forskali using traction tests. Important mechanical differences were measured between the two types of tubules, reflecting adaptability to their operating mode: to ease elongation, quiescent tubules present a low resistance to extension, while elongated tubules present a high toughness to resist to tractions generated by the predator. We demonstrate that a mutable collagenous tissue (MCT) is involved in the functioning of these organs: 1) some mechanical properties of Cuvierian tubules are modified by incubation in a cell disrupting solution, 2) the connective tissue layer encloses juxtaligamental-like cells, a cell type present in all MCTs, and 3) tensilin, a MCT stiffening protein, was localised inside these cells. Cuvierian tubules thus appear to enclose a new type of MCT which shows irreversible stiffening.

Concepts: Bone, Collagen, Developmental biology, Epithelium, Mesoderm, Connective tissue, Holothuroidea, Body cavity