Tetrodotoxin (TTX), a potent neurotoxin, is found in various phylogenetically diverse taxa. In marine environments, the pufferfish is at the top of the food chain among TTX-bearing organisms. The accumulation of TTX in the body of pufferfish appears to be of the food web that begins with bacteria. It is known that toxic pufferfishes possess TTX from the larval/juvenile stage. However, the source of the TTX is unknown because the maternally sourced TTX is extremely small in quantity. Therefore, the TTX has to be obtained from other organisms or directly from the environment. Here, we report evidence that the source of TTX for toxic fish juveniles including the pufferfish (Chelonodon patoca) and the goby (Yongeichthys criniger) is in the food organisms, as seen in their gut contents. Next generation sequencing analysis for the mitochondrial COI gene showed that the majority of the sequence recovered from intestinal contents of these toxic fishes belonged to the flatworm Planocera multitentaculata, a polyclad flatworm containing highly concentrated TTX from the larval stage. PCR specific to P. multitentaculata also showed that DNA encoding the planocerid COI gene was strongly detected in the intestinal contents of the goby and pufferfish juveniles. Additionally, the planocerid specific COI sequence was detected in the environmental seawater collected from the water around the sampling locations for TTX-bearing fish. These results suggest that planocerid larvae are the major TTX supplier for juveniles of TTX-bearing fish species.
Keywords: Marine toxin; Pufferfish toxin; Tetrodotoxin (TTX); Toxification process; Toxin accumulation.
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Conflict of interest statement
Declaration of competing interest The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.
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