The germ plasm component Vasa allows tracing of the interstitial stem cells in the cnidarian Hydractinia echinata

Dev Dyn. 2008 Jun;237(6):1736-45. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.21562.


Germ cells in hydrozoans arise lifelong from multipotent interstitial stem cells. To discover if a true germline-soma segregation exists in these species, we studied gametogenesis in Hydractinia echinata using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry for the germ cell marker Vasa. We could show that Hevas is a zygotic transcript, present in embryos from the gastrula stage onward. In the planula larva, Hevas is expressed in the interstitial stem cells located in the endoderm. During metamorphosis, Hevas-expressing cells appear in the ectoderm in the lower half of the polyp. While the Hevas transcript is not detectable in developing gametes, the protein accumulates during oogenesis. Vasa containing granules are detectable at the polar-body-forming pole after fertilization. These results suggest that, in Hydractinia, maternal Vasa protein, but not the mRNA, is a maternal constituent of a germ plasm and might be involved in the specification and maintenance of interstitial stem cells.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Cnidaria / metabolism*
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Metamorphosis, Biological
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Proteins / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Regeneration
  • Stem Cells / cytology*


  • Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger