Nanosecond-scale kinetics of nematocyst discharge
Authors: Nüchter T, Benoit M, Engel U, Ozbek S, Holstein TW
CellNetworks People: Engel Ulrike, Holstein Thomas
Journal: Curr Biol. 2006 May 9;16(9):R316-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2006.03.089

The rapid discharge of stinging cells (nematocytes) in jellyfish, hydra, and other cnidarians is one of the fastest movements in the animal kingdom. After the triggering of exocytosis, a miniature cellular weapon, the nematocyst, is released and stylets punch a hole into the prey's integument. This step is so fast that conventional high-speed micro-cinematography fails to resolve its kinetics. Here we use electronic framing-streak cameras and show kinetics of discharge to be as short as 700 ns creating an acceleration of up to 5,410,000 g. Our study identifies an ingenious solution combining vesicle exocytosis with a powerful molecular spring mechanism releasing energy stored in the mini-collagen polymer within nanoseconds.