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Concept: Sea cucumber


Fucosylated chondroitin sulfate (FucCS) is a structurally distinct glycosaminoglycan found in sea cucumber species. It has the same backbone composition of alternating 4-linked glucuronic acid and 3-linked N-acetyl galactosamine residues within disaccharide repeating units as regularly found in mammalian chondroitin sulfates. However, FucCS has also sulfated fucosyl branching units 3-O-linked to the acid residues. The sulfation patterns of these branches vary accordingly with holothurian species and account for different biological actions and responses. FucCSs may exhibit anticoagulant, antithrombotic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antiviral, and pro-angiogenic activities, besides its beneficial effects in hemodialysis, cellular growth modulation, fibrosis and hyperglycemia. Through an historical overview, this document covers most of the science regarding the holothurian FucCS. Both structural and medical properties of this unique GAG, investigated during the last 25 years, are systematically discussed herein.

Concepts: Chondroitin sulfate, Glucosamine, Heparin, Glycosaminoglycan, Sulfate, Sea cucumber


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 cucumber, Apostichopus japonicus, is one of the most important holothurian species cultured in China. Severe evisceration induced by various natural and artificial factors commonly occurs during transport and culture of A. japonicus. Evisceration causes higher mortality and lower yield. Along with the visceral regeneration process, sea cucumbers also regenerate coelomocytes in order to recover immune function. In this study, evisceration of A. japonicus was induced by intracoelomic injection of 0.35 M KCl. Regeneration of coelomocytes was investigated by time course cell counting as well as detection of DNA replication by the EdU labeling technique. Coelomic fluid volume was restored to the pre-evisceration level within 2 h after evisceration. Total coelomocyte count (TCC) reached a peak at 6 h post-evisceration, followed decreased and then increased with a slight fluctuation, restored to the pre-evisceration level at 35 d post-evisceration. The change in different subtypes of coelomocytes was consistent with that of total coelomocytes. However, there were some variations in the regeneration of coelomocyte subtypes. At the end of the study, only the counts of amoebocytes and morula cells recovered to the pre-evisceration level. DNA replication assay showed EdU-positive cells accounted for 9.5% before evisceration and 4.7% at 6 h post-evisceration. However, the percentage of EdU-positive cells significantly increased, reaching 18.6% at 3 d after evisceration, then declined. Therefore, we analyzed the observed increase in coelomocytes at 6 h post-evisecration, which may be due to coelomocyte migration from the water-vascular system into the coelom rather than de novo cell proliferation.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Organism, Developmental biology, Regeneration, DNA replication, Count, Sea cucumber


Peptides that cause muscle relaxation or contraction or that modulate electrically-induced muscle contraction have been discovered in the sea cucumber Apostichopus japonicus (Phylum Echinodermata; Class Holothuroidea). By analysing transcriptome sequence data, here the protein precursors of six of these myoactive peptides (the SALMFamides Sticho-MFamide-1 and -2, NGIWYamide, stichopin, GN-19 and GLRFA) have been identified, providing novel insights on neuropeptide and endocrine-type signalling systems in echinoderms. The A. japonicus SALMFamide precursor comprises eight putative neuropeptides including both L-type and F-type SALMFamides, which contrasts with previous findings from the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus where L-type and F-type SALMFamides are encoded by different genes. The NGIWYamide precursor contains five copies of NGIWYamide but, unlike other NG peptide-type neuropeptide precursors in deuterostomian invertebrates, the NGIWYamide precursor does not have a C-terminal neurophysin domain, indicating loss of this character in holothurians. NGIWYamide was originally discovered as a muscle contractant, but it also causes stiffening of mutable connective tissue in the body wall of A. japonicus, whilst holokinins (PLGYMFR and derivative peptides) cause softening of the body wall. However, the mechanisms by which these peptides affect the stiffness of body wall connective tissue are unknown. Interestingly, analysis of the A. japonicus transcriptome reveals that the only protein containing the holokinin sequence PLGYMFR is an alpha-5 type collagen. This suggests that proteolysis of collagen may generate peptides (holokinins) that affect body wall stiffness in sea cucumbers, providing a novel perspective on mechanisms of mutable connective tissue in echinoderms.

Concepts: Animal, Muscle, Connective tissue, Chordate, Sea urchin, Echinoderm, Echinoderms, Sea cucumber


Echinoderms are capable of asexual reproduction by fission. An individual divides into parts due to changes in the strength of connective tissue of the body wall. The structure of connective tissue and the mechanisms of variations in its strength in echinoderms remain poorly studied. An analysis of transcriptomes of individuals during the process of fission provides a new opportunity to understand the mechanisms of connective tissue mutability. In the holothurian Cladolabes schmeltzii, we have found a rather complex organization of connective tissue. Transcripts of genes encoding a wide range of structural proteins of extracellular matrix, as well as various proteases and their inhibitors, have been discovered. All these molecules may constitute a part of the mechanism of connective tissue mutability. According to our data, the extracellular matrix of echinoderms is substantially distinguished from that of vertebrates by the lack of elastin, fibronectins, and tenascins. In case of fission, a large number of genes of transcription factors and components of different signaling pathways are expressed. Products of these genes are probably involved in regulation of asexual reproduction, connective tissue mutability, and preparation of tissues for subsequent regeneration. It has been shown that holothurian tensilins are a special group of tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases, which has formed within the class Holothuroidea and is absent from other echinoderms. Our data can serve a basis for the further study of the mechanisms of extracellular matrix mutability, as well as the mechanisms responsible for asexual reproduction in echinoderms.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene expression, Collagen, Extracellular matrix, Tissues, Asexual reproduction, Sea cucumber


Encheliophis chardewalli was described from a single cleared and stained specimen. Twelve years later, additional specimens were found in the lagoon of Moorea (French Polynesia) in association with their host, the sea cucumber Actinopyga mauritiana. These fish were used to consolidate the species diagnosis, to validate species status and to record sound production. This species is remarkable because of its ability to penetrate inside the cloaca of sea cucumbers having anal teeth and the fact this species is largely unknown despite it lives in lagoons in 1m depth. Encheliophis chardewalli produced three sound types: long regular calls made of trains of numerous pulses, short irregular calls characterized by a constant lowering of its pulse period and short regular call (or knock) made of 3 to 6 pulses. Comparison with other sympatric Carapini supports a large and distinct repertoire. Morphological characteristics could be the result of reduced body size allowing to penetrate inside a new host, thus avoiding competition and conflict with other larger sympatric Carapini species.

Concepts: Biology, Validation, Sound, Specimen, French Polynesia, Lagoon, Cucumber, Sea cucumber


Secondary metabolism in marine organisms produced a diversity of biological important natural compounds which are unpresented in terrestrial species. Sea cucumbers belong to the invertebrate Echinodermata and are famous for their nutraceutical, medical and food values. They are known for possession triterpenoid glycosides (saponins) with various ecological roles. The current work aimed to separate, identify and test various biological activities (anti-bacterial, antifungal, antileishmanial and anticancer properties) of saponins produced by the holothurian Pearsonothuria graeffei from the Red Sea, Egypt.

Concepts: Evolution, Biology, Organism, Life, Species, Ecology, Red Sea, Sea cucumber


As a bioactive and functional polysaccharide, sea cucumber fucoidan has received increasing attention. Chain conformation and physicochemical properties of fucoidan extracted from Thelenota ananas (Ta-FUC) was investigated by utilizing HPSEC-MALLS-Visc-RI, microelectrophoresis and steady shear measurements. The conformation parameter αs (0.61±0.02), the Mark-Houwink-Kuhn-Sakurada exponent αη (0.92±0.01), αh (0.64±0.01) and the Smidsrød-Haug stiffness parameter B (0.036±0.010) consistently manifested that Ta-FUC adopted a semi-flexible coil conformation in NaCl solution. Based on a wormlike cylinder model, stiffness parameters, including persistence length q (13.27±0.80nm) and cylinder diameter d (0.79nm), were calculated. This polysaccharide demonstrated shear-thinning rheological behaviour, and critical concentration from dilute to semidilute concentration regime was determined as 3.6mg/ml. Ta-FUC exhibited as a negative polyelectrolyte in wide pH and ionic strength ranges. These molecular characteristics and physicochemical properties would facilitate further application of Ta-FUC as a functional ingredient in food.

Concepts: Electrochemistry, Chemistry, Chemical bond, Sodium chloride, Physical chemistry, Physical quantities, Currying, Sea cucumber


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


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