a1 Department of Biological Structure and Function SD, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon, USA
Dorsal–ventral patterning in the Xenopus egg becomes established midway through the first cell cycle during a 30° rotation of the subcortical yolk mass relative to the egg cortex. This rotation of symmetrisation is microtubule dependent, and its direction is thought to be cued by the usually eccentric sperm centrosome. The fact that parthenogenetically activated eggs also undergo a directed rotation, despite the absence of a sperm centrosome, suggests that an endogenous asymmetry in the unfertilised egg supports the directed polymerisation of microtubules in the vegetal cortex, in the way that an eccentric sperm centrosome would in fertilised eggs. Consistent with this idea, we noticed that the maturation spot is usually located an average of more than 15° from the geometric centre of the pigmented animal hemisphere. In parthenogenetically activated eggs, this eccentric maturation spot can be used to predict the direction of rotation. Although in most fertilised eggs the yolk mass rotates toward the sperm entry point (SEP) meridian, occasionally this relationship is perturbed significantly; in such eggs, the maturation spot is never on the same side of the egg as the SEP. In oocytes tilted 90° from upright during maturation in vitro, the maturation spot developed 15° or more from the centre of the pigmented hemisphere, always displaced towards the point on the equator that was up during maturation. This experimentally demonstrated lability is consistent with an off-axis oocyte orientation during oogenesis determining its eccentric maturation spot position, and, in turn, its endogenous rotational bias.
c1 Dr M.V. Danilchik, Department of Biological Structure and Function SD, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, OR 97201-3097, USA. Tel: (503)494-8568. Fax: (503)494-4666.
p1 Department of Genetics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510–8005, USA.