Changes in Tissue Distribution of Tetrodotoxin and Its Analogues in Association with Maturation in the Toxic Flatworm, Planocera multitentaculata

Mar Biotechnol (NY). 2022 Dec;24(6):1158-1167. doi: 10.1007/s10126-022-10179-z. Epub 2022 Nov 2.


The toxic flatworm, Planocera multitentaculata, possesses highly concentrated tetrodotoxin (TTX), also known as pufferfish toxin, throughout its life cycle, including the egg and larval stages. Additionally, TTX analogues, 5,6,11-trideoxyTTX and 11-norTTX-6(S)-ol, have also been detected in the flatworm. The high concentration of TTX in the eggs and larvae appears to be for protection against predation, and 11-norTTX-6(S)-ol in the pharyngeal tissue in the adults is likely used to sedate or kill prey during predation. However, information on the role of 5,6,11-trideoxyTTX, a potential important biosynthetic intermediate of TTX, in the toxic flatworm is lacking. Here, we aimed to determine the region of localization of TTX and its analogues in the flatworm body, understand their pharmacokinetics during maturation, and speculate on their function. Flatworm specimens in four stages of maturity, namely juvenile, mating, spawning, and late spawning, were subjected to LC-MS/MS analysis, using the pharyngeal tissue, oocytes in seminal receptacle, sperm, and tissue from 12 other sites. Although TTX was consistently high in the pharyngeal tissue throughout maturation, it was extremely high in the oocytes during the spawning period. Meanwhile, 5,6,11-trideoxyTTX was almost undetectable in the pharyngeal part throughout the maturation but was very abundant in the oocytes during spawning. 11-norTTX-6(S)-ol consistently localized in the pharyngeal tissue. Although the localization of TTX and its analogues was approximately consistent with the MS imaging data, TTX and 11-norTTX-6(S)-ol were found to be highly localized in the parenchyma surrounding the pharynx, which suggests the parenchyma is involved in the accumulation and production of TTXs.

Keywords: Flatworm; MS imaging; Marine toxin; Maturation; Tetrodotoxin (TTX).

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Larva / metabolism
  • Male
  • Platyhelminths*
  • Semen / metabolism
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Tetrodotoxin
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Tetrodotoxin