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Development. 2011 Jun;138(11):2217-22. doi: 10.1242/dev.065052. Epub 2011 Apr 27.

The DEAD-box RNA helicase Vasa functions in embryonic mitotic progression in the sea urchin.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology and Biochemistry, Brown University, 185 Meeting Street, BOX-GL173, Providence, RI 02912, USA. mamiko_yajima@brown.edu


Vasa is a broadly conserved ATP-dependent RNA helicase that functions in the germ line of organisms from cnidarians to mammals. Curiously, Vasa is also present in the somatic cells of many animals and functions as a regulator of multipotent cells. Here, we report a mitotic function of Vasa revealed in the sea urchin embryo. We found that Vasa protein is present in all blastomeres of the early embryo and that its abundance oscillates with the cell cycle. Vasa associates with the spindle and the separating sister chromatids at metaphase, and then quickly disappears after telophase. Inhibition of Vasa protein synthesis interferes with proper chromosome segregation, arrests cells at M-phase, and delays overall cell cycle progression. Cdk activity is necessary for the proper localization of Vasa, implying that Vasa is involved in the cyclin-dependent cell cycle network, and Vasa is required for the efficient translation of cyclinB mRNA. Our results suggest an evolutionarily conserved role of Vasa that is independent of its function in germ line determination.

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