Synthesis and turnover of polysomal mRNAs in sea urchin embryos

Glenn A. Galau, Edward D. Lipson, Roy J. Britten, Eric H. Davidson

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72 Scopus citations


The synthesis and turnover kinetics of polysomal mRNA have been measured in sea urchin embryos. Polysomes were isolated from stages ranging between mesenchyme blastula and late gastrula Strongylocentrotus purpuratus embryos which had been exposed to exogenous 3H-guanosine. The amount of radioactivity incorporated into messenger and ribosomal RNAs was determined separately as a function of time, and the precursor pool specific activity was measured in the same embryos. Synthesis and decay rate constants were extracted from the data by a leastsquares procedure. Per embryo, the rate of mRNA synthesis was calculated to be about 0.13 pg min-1, while the rate of rRNA synthesis is about 0.022 pg min-1. The newly synthesized mRNA turns over with a half-time of 5.7 hr. The data support only a single decay rate for the mRNA, but small fractions of mRNA decaying at different rates cannot be excluded. Previous studies have shown that a minor fraction of the mRNA includes the least abundant, most highly diverse set of messages ("complex class" mRNAs). To determine whether mRNAs of the complex class are synthesized and degraded at similar rates, labeled mRNA was measured in hybrids formed in mRNA excess reactions with single copy DNA. These experiments showed that complex class mRNAs represent an approximately proportional amount of the new mRNA synthesis, and turn over at the same average rate as does the bulk of the mRNA. Most of the mRNAs in the embryo polysomes are newly synthesized, rather than maternal. This statement refers both to complex class mRNAs and to prevalent mRNAs. Considering the sequence homology between embryo and oocyte mRNAs shown earlier, these results indicate that many of the same structural genes active during oogenesis are being transcribed in embryos at these stages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-432
Number of pages18
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1977

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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