We test previous claims that the bacteria Vibrio alginolyticus produces tetrodotoxin (TTX) when living in symbiosis with the nemertean Lineus longissimus by a setup with bacteria cultivation for TTX production. Toxicity experiments on the shore crab, Carcinus maenas, demonstrated the presence of a paralytic toxin, but evidence from LC-MS and electrophysiological measurements of voltage-gated sodium channel-dependent nerve conductance in male Wistar rat tissue showed conclusively that this effect did not originate from TTX. However, a compound of similar molecular weight was found, albeit apparently non-toxic, and with different LC retention time and MS/MS fragmentation pattern than those of TTX. We conclude that C. maenas paralysis and death likely emanate from a compound <5 kDa, and via a different mechanism of action than that of TTX. The similarity in mass between TTX and the Vibrio-produced low-molecular-weight, non-toxic compound invokes that thorough analysis is required when assessing TTX production. Based on our findings, we suggest that re-examination of some published claims of TTX production may be warranted.
Strand, M., Hedström, M., Seth, H., McEvoy, E. G., Jacobsson, E., Göransson, U., … Sundberg, P. (2016). The bacterial (Vibrio alginolyticus) production of tetrodotoxin in the ribbon worm Lineus longissimus - Just a false positive? Marine Drugs, 14(4). https://doi.org/10.3390/md14040063