The epidermal mucus covering the surface of a snail represents an important barrier to trematode larvae attempting to penetrate the snail and may play a role in mediating snail-trematode compatibility. In this study, Facioloides magna miracidia were exposed to mucus harvested from a compatible snail host, Lymnaea elodes (palustris), and from an incompatible snail, Helisoma trivolvis. In vitro treatment of freshly hatched miracidia with snail-derived mucus exerted dramatically different effects on larvae depending on snail species. At the lowest dilution of mucus tested (1:3) mean damage rates (tegumental damage and/or larval lysis and death) were as high as 100% for miracidia exposed to H. trivolvis mucus, while none of F. magna miracidia were damaged in L. elodes mucus. A dilution series for each snail species, and treatments with heat and proteinase K were performed to characterize the component(s) of mucus inducing the observed morphological changes. The damaging effects of H. trivolvis mucus were concentration dependent and completely abrogated by heat (65 C, 30 min) and proteinase treatment, strongly implicating a heat-labile protein(s) in mucus as the active cytotoxic agent(s). In contrast to our prediction that miracidial contact with mucus of compatible L. elodes would trigger larval transformation, mucus from either snail species tested exhibited little to no activity. Overall these data demonstrate the presence of a potent cytotoxic protein-like factor in the mucus of F. magna–incompatible H. trivolvis, and its absence in the mucus of the compatible snail, L. elodes. This finding supports the notion that the epidermal mucus layer may be serving as an important determinant of larval trematode-snail compatibility.

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