Giant Keyhole Limpet
The giant keyhole limpet is a primitive type of snail, or gastropod, which lives from Central California to Baja. Characterized by a slimy gray, black, or brownish skin covering its gray shell (yes, its shell is under its skin), this animal is often found fastened onto rocks using suction, feeding off of algae with a radula, or tongue, that scrapes the algae into its mouth on the yellowish underside of its body. This limpet has a black central hole which is used to expel waste away from the gills and mouth to avoid the waste reentering its body. It can grow up to 10” in length. Their shells were used as currency and decoration by Native Americans.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Megathura crenulata, common name the great keyhole limpet or giant keyhole limpet, is a northeast Pacific species of limpet in the family Fissurellidae. Megathura is a monotypic genus, in other words, this is the only species in that genus.
These keyhole limpets are large, growing up to 60–132 mm (2.4–5.2 in), and unusually have a shell largely concealed in the tough fleshy mantle.
Keyhole limpet hemocyanin
Keyhole limpet hemocyanin from Megathura crenulata is used as vaccine carrier protein. Keyhole Limpet hemocyanin, or KLH, is a copper containing respiratory protein, similar to hemoglobin in humans. KLH is a large protein that acts as the hapten carrier part of the vaccine component, and is so far thought to be non-toxic. The major potential use of KLH is for bladder carcinoma by stimulating a specific immune response, but there are many other medical uses such as stress assessment, understanding inflammatory conditions, and treating drug addition. Vaccines and other KLH uses are in the research or trial phases. A liter of blood from a keyhole limpet will produce 20 grams of protein, which can be worth as much as $100,000.
- Rosenberg, G. (2012). Megathura crenulata (Sowerby I, 1825). Accessed through: World Register of Marine Species at http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=527885 on 2013-01-17
- Megathura crenulata
- Megathura crenulata
- "Keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH): a biomedical review" 30 (6). December 1999. pp. 597–623. PMID 10544506.
- http://spectrum.ieee.org/podcast/biomedical/devices/harvesting-blood-from-limpets-for-a-cancer-vaccine. Missing or empty
- http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2011-11/how-mollusk-blood-could-cause-cancer. Missing or empty
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