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Dev Biol. 1990 Dec;142(2):439-52.

Subcellular localization of sea urchin egg spectrin: evidence for assembly of the membrane-skeleton on unique classes of vesicles in eggs and embryos.

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Harvard Medical School, Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, Boston, Massachusetts 02130.


A recent study from our laboratory on the sea urchin egg suggested that spectrin was not solely restricted to the plasma membrane, but instead had a more widespread distribution on the surface of a variety of membranous inclusions. (E. M. Bonder et al., 1989, Dev. Biol. 134, 327-341). In this report we extend our initial findings and provide experimental and ultrastructural evidence for the presence of spectrin on three distinct classes of cytoplasmic vesicles. Immunoblot analysis of membrane fractions prepared from egg homogenates establishes that spectrin coisolates with vesicle-enriched fractions, while indirect immunofluorescence microscopy on cryosections of centrifugally stratified eggs demonstrates that spectrin specifically associates with cortical granules, acidic vesicles, and yolk platelets in vivo. Immunogold ultrastructural localization of spectrin on cortices isolated from eggs and early embryos details the striking distribution of spectrin on the cytoplasmic surface of the plasma membrane and the membranes of cortical granules, acidic vesicles, and yolk platelets, while quantitative studies show that relatively equivalent amounts of spectrin are present on the different membrane surfaces both before and after fertilization. These data, in combination with the localization of numerous spectrin crosslinks between actin filaments in surface microvilli, suggest that spectrin plays a pivotal role in structuring the cortical membrane-cytoskeletal complex of the egg and the embryo.

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