• Pelagia noctiluca;
  • nematocysts;
  • cell death;
  • DNA damage;
  • apoptosis

Studies on the toxicity of Mediterranean jellyfish have gained attention owing to their weak toxic properties. Our research has been mainly performed on the Scyphomedusae. Pelagia noctiluca is a scyphozoan jellyfish which causes a danger to sea bathers and fishery damages in the Mediterranean Sea. To check whether the cytotoxicity of Pelagia noctiluca nematocysts was associated to DNA lesions, we have looked for DNA fragmentation by means of the Comet and chromosome aberration assays. To specify cell death pathway, we have investigated caspase-3 activation. Our results have shown that nematocysts reduced cell viability and induced DNA fragmentation in a concentration-dependent manner with a maximum effect at 150 000 nematocysts mL−1. The high percentage of chromosome aberrations also emphasized the genotoxic character of Pelagia noctiluca nematocysts in Vero cells. This fragmentation was correlated to apoptosis induction which was confirmed by caspase-3 activation. In conclusion, the present report has suggested that Pelagia noctiluca nematocysts were able to promote apoptosis in Vero cells and therefore may be useful in cancer therapy. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 29: 337–344, 2014.