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Dev Biol. 1988 Jun;127(2):408-20.

Fertilization alters the spatial distribution and the density of voltage-dependent sodium current in the egg of the ascidian Boltenia villosa.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Washington, Seattle 98195.


The spatial distribution of voltage-dependent ionic currents was characterized in Boltenia villosa eggs before and after fertilization using two-microelectrode voltage clamp of paired animal-vegetal halves of eggs (merogones) made surgically. Major voltage-dependent conductances in the Boltenia egg are a transient inward Na current, a transient inward Ca current, and an inwardly rectifying K current. These currents were randomly distributed along the animal-vegetal axis in the unfertilized egg. When paired merogones (surgically prepared egg fragments) were made at the vegetal cap stage, 15-30 min after fertilization, Ca and K currents remained randomly distributed along the animal-vegetal axis. In contrast, the relative Na current density was found to be twofold lower in the vegetal vs the animal merogones made at the vegetal cap stage. By making pairs of merogones from unfertilized eggs and subsequently fertilizing one merogone of a pair, we showed that this change in current density ratio was due to a loss of absolute Na current density in the vegetal hemisphere shortly after fertilization. These results also show that this loss was intrinsic to the vegetal hemisphere, rather than being determined solely by the point of sperm entry. A second decrease in Na current was observed during the hour before first cleavage, 60-120 min after fertilization (M.L. Block and W.J. Moody, 1987, J. Physiol. 393, 619-634), both in fertilized eggs and in animal merogones fertilized after isolation. This second loss of Na current was not observed in vegetal merogones fertilized after isolation or in either animal or vegetal merogones made from fertilized eggs at the vegetal cap stage. Possible mechanisms for te rapid (complete by 40 min after fertilization) and the late (occurring from ca. 60 to 120 minutes after fertilization) Na current losses are discussed.

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