Structural characterization and spatial mapping of tetrodotoxins in Australian polyclads

Justin M. McNab, Matthew T. Briggs, Jane E. Williamson, Peter Hoffmann, Jorge Rodriguez, Peter Karuso*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


Tetrodotoxin (TTX) is a potent marine neurotoxin that occurs in several Australian phyla, including pufferfish, toadfish, gobies, and the blue-ringed octopus. These animals are partially immune, and TTX is known to bioaccumulate and subject to trophic transfer. As such, it could be more ubiquitously distributed in animals than is currently known. Flatworms of the order Polycladida are commonly occurring invertebrates in intertidal ecosystems and are especially diverse in Australian waters. While TTX has been identified in polyclads from Japan and New Zealand, Australian species have yet to be tested. In this study, several eastern Australian polyclad flatworm species from the suborders Cotylea and Acotylea were tested for TTX and analogs by HILIC-HRMS to understand the distribution of this toxin within these suborders. Herein, we report the detection of TTX and some known analogs in polyclad species, one of which is a pest to shellfish aquaculture. We also report, for the first time, the application of MALDI mass spectrometry imaging utilized to map TTX spatially within the intestinal system of polyclads. The identification of TTX and its analogs in Australian flatworms illustrates a broader range of toxic flatworms and highlights that analogs are important to consider when studying the distributions of toxins in animals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number788
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalMarine Drugs
Issue number12
Early online date19 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • tetrodotoxin
  • Polycladida
  • flatworm


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