Autofluorescence mediated red spherulocyte sorting provides insights into the source of spinochromes in sea urchins
Red spherule cells (RSCs) are considered one of the prime immune cells of sea urchins, but their detailed biological role during immune responses is not well elucidated. Lack of pure populations accounts for one of the major challenges of studying these cells. In this study, we have demonstrated that live RSCs exhibit strong, multi-colour autofluorescence distinct from other coelomocytes, and with the help of fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), a pure population of live RSCs was successfully separated from other coelomocytes in the green sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. This newly developed RSCs isolation method has allowed profiling of the naphthoquinone content in these cells. With the use of ultra high-performance liquid chromatography, UV absorption spectra, and high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry, it was possible to identify sulphated derivatives of spinochrome C, D, E and spinochrome dimers, which suggests that the RSCs may play an important biological role in the biogenesis of naphthoquinone compounds and regulating their bioactivity.