, Volume 108, Issue 4, pp 219-227

Ovulation and egg segregation in the tunic of a colonial ascidian, Diplosoma listerianum (Tunicata, Ascidiacea)

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The process of egg segregation in the tunic of the ovoviviparous ascidian Diplosoma listerianum was studied by light and electron microscopy. One egg at a time was seen to mature in each zooid. The eggs had large yolk and grew on the ovary wall enveloped in four layers: (1) outer follicle cells (OFC), long and rich in RER (rough endoplasmic reticulum) and with dense granules in the Golgi region; (2) flat inner follicle cells (IFC); (3) a loosely fibrillar vitelline coat (VC); (4) test cells encased on the egg surface. The growing egg protrudes from the ovary wall and presses on the contiguous epidermis. Granulocytes enter the space between the epidermis and the egg and insinuate cytoplasmic protrusions, disrupting the continuity of the OFC layer. At ovulation, OFC and IFC are discharged and form a post-ovulatory follicle (corpus luteum). The epidermis shrinks and closes, possibly by activation of microfilaments, causing the egg to be completely surrounded by the tunic. In the zooid, the wound caused by the passage of the egg is repaired both by contraction of the epidermis and by phagocytic activity. Altered spermatozoans are found in phagocytosing cells in the lumen of the ovary. These are presumably remnants of those which entered to fertilize the egg before segregation.