Abstract. Spirocysts are two to three times more abun dant than nematocysts in the feeding tentacles of aconti ate sea anemones. Despite their prevalence, little experi mental work has been done on the discharge of spirocysts because of the difficulty in detecting and counting them after they have discharged. To circumvent this problem, we have developed a simple, reliable, enzyme-linked Icc- tin sorbent assay (ELLSA) for quantifying discharged spirocysts. With this method, we have shown that the dis charge of spirocysts, like that of mastigophore nemato cysts, is chemosensitized in a dose-dependent manner by three classes of low molecular weight substances, typified by N-acetylneuraminic acid (NANA), glycine, and cer tain heterocyclic amino compounds, such as proline and histan-tine. We also show that spirocysts exhibit consider able agonist-specific variation in the dose-responses of discharge, suggesting the existence of multiple popula tions of spirocyst-bearing cnidocyte/supporting cell complexes (CSCCs). Our findings call into question commonly held views regarding the respective roles of spirocysts and mastigophore nematocysts in the reten tion of captured prey.
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