Like most metazoans, eggs of echinoderms and tunicates (marine deuterostomes, there is no data for the cephalochordates) arrest awaiting fertilization due to the activity of the Mos/MEK/MAPK cascade and are released from this cell cycle arrest by sperm-triggered Ca2+ signals. Invertebrate deuterostome eggs display mainly three distinct types of cell cycle arrest before fertilization mediated by potentially different cytostatic factors (CSF): one CSF causes arrest during meiotic metaphase I (MI-CSF in tunicates and some starfishes), another CSF likely causes arrest during meiotic metaphase II (amphioxus), and yet another form of CSF causes arrest to occur after meiotic exit during G1 of the first mitotic cycle (G1-CSF). In tunicates and echinoderms these different CSF activities have been shown to rely on the Mos//MAPK pathway for establishment and on Ca2+ signals for their inactivation. Despite these molecular similarities, release of MI-CSF arrest is caused by APC/C activation (to destroy cyclin B) whereas release from G1-CSF is caused by stimulating S phase and the synthesis of cyclins. Further research is needed to understand how both the Mos//MAPK cascade and Ca2+ achieve these tasks in different marine invertebrate deuterostomes. Another conserved feature of eggs is that protein synthesis of specific mRNAs is necessary to proceed through oocyte maturation and to maintain CSF-induced cell cycle arrest. Then activation of development at fertilization is accompanied by an increase in the rate of protein synthesis but the mechanisms involved are still largely unknown in most of the marine deuterostomes. How the sperm-triggered Ca2+ signals cause an increase in protein synthesis has been studied mainly in sea urchin eggs. Here we review these conserved features of eggs (arrest, activation and protein synthesis) focusing on the non-vertebrate deuterostomes.
Keywords: Cell cycle; Egg; Fertilization; Invertebrate deuterostomes; Mos//MAPK.
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