Non-centrosomal microtubule structures regulated by egg activation signaling contribute to cytoplasmic and cortical reorganization in the ascidian egg

Dev Biol. 2019 Apr 15;448(2):161-172. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2018.10.014. Epub 2018 Oct 26.


In the first ascidian cell cycle, cytoplasmic and cortical reorganization is required for distributing maternal factors to their appropriate positions, resulting in the formation of the embryonic axis. This cytoplasmic reorganization is considered to depend on the cortical microfilament network in the first phase and on the sperm astral microtubule (MT) in the second phase. Recently, we described three novel MT structures: a deeply extended MT meshwork (DEM) in the entire subcortical region of the unfertilized egg, transiently accumulated MT fragments (TAF) in the vegetal pole, and a cortical MT array in the posterior vegetal cortex (CAMP). Particularly, our previous study showed CAMP to contribute to the movement of myoplasm. In addition, it is very similar to the parallel MT array, which appears during cortical rotation in Xenopus eggs. However, how these MT structures are organized is still unclear. Here, we investigated the relationship between the egg activation pathway and MT structures during the first ascidian cell cycle. First, we carefully analyzed cell cycle progression through meiosis I and II and the first mitosis, and successfully established a standard time table of cell cycle events. Using this time table as a reference, we precisely described the behavior of novel MT structures and revealed that it was closely correlated with cell cycle events. Moreover, pharmacological experiments supported the relationship between these MT structures and the signal transduction mechanisms that begin after fertilization, including Ca2+ signaling, MPF signaling, and MEK/MAPK signaling. Especially, CAMP formation was directed by activities of cyclin-dependent kinases. As these MT structures are conserved, at least, within chordate group, we emphasize the importance of understanding the controlling mechanisms of MT dynamics, which is important for embryonic axis determination in the ascidian egg.

Keywords: Axis determination; Ca(2+) signaling; Cytoskeleton; Fertilization; Signal transduction.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Butadienes / pharmacology
  • Calcium Signaling / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Centrosome / drug effects
  • Centrosome / metabolism*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases / metabolism
  • Male
  • Meiosis / drug effects
  • Microtubules / drug effects
  • Microtubules / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Nitriles / pharmacology
  • Ovum / cytology
  • Ovum / drug effects
  • Ovum / metabolism*
  • Roscovitine / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction* / drug effects
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism
  • Urochordata / cytology*
  • Urochordata / drug effects
  • Urochordata / metabolism*


  • Butadienes
  • Nitriles
  • U 0126
  • Roscovitine
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinases