Pelagia noctiluca, a jellyfish widely distributed in the Mediterranean waters, especially in coastal areas of Tunisia, has garnered attention because of its stinging capacity and the resulting public health hazard. Crude extracts of P. noctiluca nematocysts have been tested for their cytotoxicity on Vero cells. Our results clearly showed that nematocysts induced cell mortality in a dose- and time-dependent manner. A cytoprotective effect against cell mortality was obtained when Vero cells were treated with Vitamin E. This process was further confirmed by the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the induction of Hsp 70 and 27 protein expressions. Thus, our findings suggested that oxidative stress is involved in the toxicity of pelagia nematocysts and may therefore constitute the major mechanism of this medusa nematocysts toxicity. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 28: 498–506, 2013.