Identification of cis elements which direct the localization of maternal mRNAs to the posterior pole of ascidian embryos

Dev Biol. 2002 Oct 1;250(1):128-44. doi: 10.1006/dbio.2002.0783.


During ascidian embryogenesis, some mRNAs show clear localization at the posterior-most region. These postplasmic mRNAs are divided into two groups (type I and type II) according to their pattern of localization. To elucidate how these localization patterns are achieved, we attempted to identify the localization elements of these mRNAs. When in vitro synthesized postplasmic mRNAs were introduced into eggs, these mRNAs showed posterior localization similar to the endogenous mRNAs. The posterior localization of these mRNAs was mediated by their 3' untranslated regions (3' UTRs), as is the case for several localized Drosophila and Xenopus mRNAs. We identified smaller fragments of the 3' UTRs of HrWnt-5 and HrPOPK-1 mRNAs (type I) and HrPet-3 mRNA (type II) that were sufficient to direct green fluorescent protein mRNA to the posterior pole. For the localization of HrWnt-5 mRNA, two UG dinucleotide repetitive elements were essential. Motifs similar to these small elements also exist within the HrPOPK-1 mRNA localization element and 3' UTR of HrZF-1 mRNA, suggesting the conservation of localization elements among type I mRNAs. In contrast, the smallest sequence that suffices for the posterior localization of HrPet-3 (a type II mRNA) has different features from those of type I mRNAs; indeed, it does not have an identifiable critical element. This difference may distinguish type II mRNAs from type I mRNAs. These findings, especially the identification of the small localization element of HrWnt-5 mRNA, provide new insights into the localization of mRNAs during ascidian embryogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Dinucleotide Repeats
  • Egg Proteins / genetics*
  • Female
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Urochordata / embryology
  • Urochordata / genetics*
  • Wnt Proteins


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Egg Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Wnt-5 protein, Halocynthia roretzi
  • HrPOPK-1 protein, Halocynthia roretzi
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases