Thiosulphate, the main sulphide detoxification product, is accumulated in the body fluids of the lugworm Arenicola marina. The aim of this study was to elucidate the fate of thiosulphate. Electrophysiological measurements revealed that the transepithelial resistance of body wall sections was 76+/−34 capomega cm2 (mean +/− s.d., N=14), indicating that the body wall of the lugworm is a leaky tissue in which mainly paracellular transport along cell junctions takes place. The body wall was equally permeable from both sides to thiosulphate, the permeability coefficient of which was 1. 31×10(−)3+/−0.37×10(−)3 cm h-1 (mean +/− s.d., N=30). No evidence was found for a significant contribution of the gills or the nephridia to thiosulphate permeation. Thiosulphate flux followed the concentration gradient, showing a linear correlation (r=0.997) between permeated and supplied (10–100 mmol l-1) thiosulphate. The permeability of thiosulphate was not sensitive to the presence of various metabolic inhibitors, implicating a permeation process independent of membrane proteins and showing that the lugworm does not need to use energy to dispose of the sulphide detoxification product. The present data suggest a passive permeation of thiosulphate across the body wall of A. marina. In live lugworms, thiosulphate levels in the coelomic fluid and body wall tissue decreased slowly and at similar rates during recovery from sulphide exposure. The decline in thiosulphate levels followed a decreasing double-exponential function. Thiosulphate was not further oxidized to sulphite or sulphate but was excreted into the sea water.

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