Previous electron microscope studies of sperm-egg association in the annelid Hydroides revealed novel aspects with respect to the acrosomal region. To determine whether these aspects were unique, a comparable study was made of a species belonging to a widely separated phylum, Hemichordata. Osmium tetroxide-fixed polyspermic material of the enteropneust, Saccoglossus, was used. The acrosomal region includes the membrane-bounded acrosome, with its large acrosomal granule and shallow adnuclear invagination, and the periacrosomal material which surrounds the acrosome except at the apex; here, the acrosomal membrane lies very close to the enclosing sperm plasma membrane. After reaching the egg envelope, the spermatozoon is activated and undergoes a series of changes: the apex dehisces and around the resulting orifice the acrosomal and sperm plasma membranes form a continuous mosaic membrane. The acrosomal granule disappears. Within 7 seconds the invagination becomes the acrosomal tubule, spans the egg envelopes, and meets the egg plasma membrane. The rest of the acrosomal vesicle everts. The periacrosomal mass changes profoundly: part becomes a fibrous core (possibly equivalent to a perforatorium); part remains as a peripheral ring. The basic pattern of structure and sperm-egg association in Saccoglossus is the same as in Hydroides. Previous evidence from four other phyla as interpreted here also indicates conformity to this pattern. The major role of the acrosome is apparently to deliver the sperm plasma membrane to the egg plasma membrane.  (+info)


An earlier paper showed that in Saccoglossus the acrosomal tubule makes contact with the egg plasma membrane. The present paper includes evidence that the sperm and egg plasma membranes fuse to establish the single continuous zygote membrane which, consequently, is a mosaic. Contrary to the general hypothesis of Tyler, pinocytosis or phagocytosis plays no role in zygote formation. Contact between the gametes is actually between two newly exposed surfaces: in the spermatozoon, the surface was formerly the interior of the acrosomal vesicle; in the egg, it was membrane previously covered by the egg envelopes. The concept that all the events of fertilization are mediated by a fertilizin-antifertilizin reaction seems an oversimplification of events actually observed: rather, the evidence indicates that a series of specific biochemical interactions probably would be involved. Gamete membrane fusion permits sperm periacrosomal material to meet the egg cytoplasm; if an activating substance exists in the spermatozoon it probably is periacrosomal rather than acrosomal in origin. The contents of the acrosome are expended in the process of delivering the sperm plasma membrane to the egg plasma membrane. After these membranes coalesce, the sperm nucleus and other internal sperm structures move into the egg cytoplasm.  (+info)


The test cell in the ovary of the tunicate Styela contains a large and robust Golgi complex which demonstrates a regional structural differentiation. In one of the regions, branching of the lamellae occurs resulting in a honeycomb or lattice-type arrangement. Small, dense granules or homogeneous material of moderate density may be present within certain of the Golgi cisternae. The close association, or continuity in some cases, between elements of the Golgi complex and immature forms of pigment suggests that the Golgi complex in these cells is involved in pigment formation. These relationships are shown and discussed in terms of possible functional significance.  (+info)


The cytoplasm of young oocytes of the ascidians contains high concentrations of proteins which are stainable with alkaline fast green at pH 8.1 and above. These proteins cannot be stained even with acid dyes at low pH unless RNA is removed. Deamination and formalin blockage of amino groups is incapable of destroying the net positive charge on these protein molecules in the presence of RNA, but these treatments destroy the charge if RNA is removed. It is therefore concluded that basic proteins and RNA exist as a nucleoprotein complex in the ribosomes of these young oocytes. The detectable RNA of the mature oocytes and unfertilized eggs shows no evidence of being associated with basic proteins.  (+info)

(5/153) Amphioxus and ascidian Dmbx homeobox genes give clues to the vertebrate origins of midbrain development.

The ancestral chordate neural tube had a tripartite structure, comprising anterior, midbrain-hindbrain boundary (MHB) and posterior regions. The most anterior region encompasses both forebrain and midbrain in vertebrates. It is not clear when or how the distinction between these two functionally and developmentally distinct regions arose in evolution. Recently, we reported a mouse PRD-class homeobox gene, Dmbx1, expressed in the presumptive midbrain at early developmental stages, and the hindbrain at later stages, with exclusion from the MHB. This gene provides a route to investigate the evolution of midbrain development. We report the cloning, genomic structure, phylogeny and embryonic expression of Dmbx genes from amphioxus and from Ciona, representing the two most closely related lineages to the vertebrates. Our analyses show that Dmbx genes form a distinct, ancient, homeobox gene family, with highly conserved sequence and genomic organisation, albeit more divergent in Ciona. In amphioxus, no Dmbx expression is observed in the neural tube, supporting previous arguments that the MHB equivalent region has been secondarily modified in evolution. In Ciona, the CiDmbx gene is detected in neural cells caudal to Pax2/5/8-positive cells (MHB homologue), in the Hox-positive region, but, interestingly, not in any cells rostral to them. These results suggest that a midbrain homologue is missing in Ciona, and argue that midbrain development is a novelty that evolved specifically on the vertebrate lineage. We discuss the evolution of midbrain development in relation to the ancestry of the tripartite neural ground plan and the origin of the MHB organiser.  (+info)

(6/153) Retroelement dynamics and a novel type of chordate retrovirus-like element in the miniature genome of the tunicate Oikopleura dioica.

Retrotransposable elements have played an important role in shaping eukaryotic DNA, and their activity and turnover rate directly influence the size of genomes. With approximately 15,000 genes within 65-75 megabases, the marine tunicate Oikopleura dioica, a nonvertebrate chordate, has the smallest and most compact genome ever found in animals. Consistent with a massive elimination of retroelements, only one apparently novel clade of non-long terminal repeat (non-LTR) retrotransposons was detected within 41 megabases of nonredundant genomic sequences. In contrast, at least six clades of non-LTR elements were identified in the less compact genome of the tunicate Ciona intestinalis. Unexpectedly, Ty3/gypsy-related Tor LTR retrotransposons presented an astonishing level of diversity in O. dioica. They were generally poorly or apparently not corrupted, indicating recent activity. Both Tor3 and Tor4b families bore an envelope-like open reading frame, suggesting possible horizontal acquisition through infection. The Tor4b envelope-like gene might have been obtained from a paramyxovirus (RNA virus). Tor3 and Tor4b are phylogenetically clearly distinct from vertebrate retroviruses (Retroviridae) and are more reminiscent of certain insect and plant sequences. Tor elements potentially represent a so far unknown, ancient type of infectious retroelement in chordates. Their distribution and transmission dynamics in tunicates and other chordates deserve further study.  (+info)

(7/153) Bayesian inference of the metazoan phylogeny; a combined molecular and morphological approach.

Metazoan phylogeny remains one of evolutionary biology's major unsolved problems. Molecular and morphological data, as well as different analytical approaches, have produced highly conflicting results due to homoplasy resulting from more than 570 million years of evolution. To date, parsimony has been the only feasible combined approach but is highly sensitive to long-branch attraction. Recent development of stochastic models for discrete morphological characters and computationally efficient methods for Bayesian inference has enabled combined molecular and morphological data analysis with rigorous statistical approaches less prone to such inconsistencies. We present the first statistically founded analysis of a metazoan data set based on a combination of morphological and molecular data and compare the results with a traditional parsimony analysis. Interestingly, the Bayesian analyses demonstrate a high degree of congruence between morphological and molecular data, and both data sets contribute to the result of the combined analysis. Additionally, they resolve several irregularities obtained in previous studies and show high credibility values for controversial groups such as the ecdysozoans and lophotrochozoans. Parsimony, on the contrary, shows conflicting results, with morphology being congruent to the Bayesian results and the molecular data set producing peculiarities that are largely reflected in the combined analysis.  (+info)

(8/153) Evolutionary relationships of Aurora kinases: implications for model organism studies and the development of anti-cancer drugs.

BACKGROUND: As key regulators of mitotic chromosome segregation, the Aurora family of serine/threonine kinases play an important role in cell division. Abnormalities in Aurora kinases have been strongly linked with cancer, which has lead to the recent development of new classes of anti-cancer drugs that specifically target the ATP-binding domain of these kinases. From an evolutionary perspective, the species distribution of the Aurora kinase family is complex. Mammals uniquely have three Aurora kinases, Aurora-A, Aurora-B, and Aurora-C, while for other metazoans, including the frog, fruitfly and nematode, only Aurora-A and Aurora-B kinases are known. The fungi have a single Aurora-like homolog. Based on the tacit assumption of orthology to human counterparts, model organism studies have been central to the functional characterization of Aurora kinases. However, the ortholog and paralog relationships of these kinases across various species have not been rigorously examined. Here, we present comprehensive evolutionary analyses of the Aurora kinase family. RESULTS: Phylogenetic trees suggest that all three vertebrate Auroras evolved from a single urochordate ancestor. Specifically, Aurora-A is an orthologous lineage in cold-blooded vertebrates and mammals, while structurally similar Aurora-B and Aurora-C evolved more recently in mammals from a duplication of an ancestral Aurora-B/C gene found in cold-blooded vertebrates. All so-called Aurora-A and Aurora-B kinases of non-chordates are ancestral to the clade of chordate Auroras and, therefore, are not strictly orthologous to vertebrate counterparts. Comparisons of human Aurora-B and Aurora-C sequences to the resolved 3D structure of human Aurora-A lends further support to the evolutionary scenario that vertebrate Aurora-B and Aurora-C are closely related paralogs. Of the 26 residues lining the ATP-binding active site, only three were variant and all were specific to Aurora-A. CONCLUSIONS: In this study, we found that invertebrate Aurora-A and Aurora-B kinases are highly divergent protein families from their chordate counterparts. Furthermore, while the Aurora-A family is ubiquitous among all vertebrates, the Aurora-B and Aurora-C families in humans arose from a gene duplication event in mammals. These findings show the importance of understanding evolutionary relationships in the interpretation and transference of knowledge from studies of model organism systems to human cellular biology. In addition, given the important role of Aurora kinases in cancer, evolutionary analysis and comparisons of ATP-binding domains suggest a rationale for designing dual action anti-tumor drugs that inhibit both Aurora-B and Aurora-C kinases.  (+info)