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Dev Biol. 1991 Oct;147(2):381-91.

In vitro fertilization in ctenophores: sperm entry, mitosis, and the establishment of bilateral symmetry in Beroe ovata.

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Unité de Biologie Cellulaire Marine, URA 671, CNRS/Univ P et M. Curie, Villefranche sur Mer, France.


We have found ways to control in vitro fertilization in a ctenophore (Beroe ovata) for the first time. This is based on the existence of a partial block to self-fertilization at the time of gamete release which can be overcome by removal of the egg envelope. It has allowed us to exploit the excellent optical properties of Beroe eggs to make detailed observations on all events from sperm penetration or penetrations in these physiologically polyspermic eggs to first cleavage, and to extend our initial observations (Carré and Sardet, 1984). Sperm entry is characterized by local modifications of the egg cortex in a 70-microns zone around the penetration site or sites. Upon sperm entry, the egg surface contracts and relaxes locally, then a fertilization cone forms and disappears. These events are accompanied by localized exocytosis, growth of a ring of microvilli, thickening of the egg cortex, and gathering of mitochondria around the sperm pronuclei. The female pronucleus then migrates beneath the egg surface toward one or successive sperm pronuclei. The fusion of pronuclei, sperm and egg chromatin intermixing, and mitosis were also observed with exceptional clarity. Furthermore, we have noticed that the direction of the last trajectory of the female pronucleus tends to define the orientation of the mitotic spindle, and as a consequence the position of first unipolar cleavage furrow. This in turn determines the future sagittal plane of the embryo and of the adult B. ovata.

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