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Mol Reprod Dev. 2000 Jan;55(1):109-16.

Mechanism of the block to hybridization and selfing between the sympatric ascidians Ciona intestinalis and Ciona savignyi.

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  • 1Biological Science, California State University Fullerton, Fullerton, California, USA.


The solitary ascidians Ciona intestinalis and Ciona savignyi co-occur in southern California harbors, but no hybrids have been recognized in nature. Numerous differences in their egg morphology were detected. Homologous (normal outcross) fertilization yielded 96-99% cleavage, where autologous (self) fertilization showed 3% and heterologous (hybrid) fertilization showed 0-1%. Acid treatment (pH 3.2) removed the block to selfing (P < 0.0001) but not hybridization for both species. Heterologous sperm bind to the vitelline coat (VC), but fail to penetrate. Enzymatic removal of the VC resulted in 91-97% cleavage with autologous and heterologous sperm (P < 0.0001). The vitelline coats of the two species differ in lectin binding to surface glycosides. Fertilization in both species is significantly inhibited by the lectins, fucose binding protein (P < 0.0001) and concanavalin A (P < 0.0001), and wheat germ agglutinin inhibits fertilization in C. intestinalis (P < 0.0001) but is without effect on C. savignyi fertilization. Self and hybrid blocks employ different mechanisms including glycoside composition and acid sensitivity.

Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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