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Lysosomal and pseudocoelom routing protects Caenorhabditis elegans from ricin toxicity

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For more content, see Nematologica.

The resistance of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans towards the highly potent toxin ricin has been studied. Incubation of C. elegans in ricin did not affect life span or progeny production. However, micro-injection of the ricin A-chain into the distal, syncitial gonad caused degeneration and sterility in test specimens, confirming that C. elegans ribosomes are sensitive. Using transmission electron microscopy, it was observed that ricin is effectively internalised into the intestinal cells. When pre-labelled with gold, the toxin reached only the lysosomes. When native toxin was used, the toxin was either routed to the lysosomes or underwent transcytosis to the pseudocoelomatic cavity and incorporation into embryos. None of the ricin reached either the trans Golgi network or the Golgi apparatus, considered essential for toxicity. The observed oral non-toxicity is therefore due to alternate sorting of the toxin, a mechanism not previously observed. The data indicate that, although ricin can opportunistically bind to, and be internalised by, cell surface receptors, these receptors are not sufficient to elicit toxicity.


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