Development Genes and Evolution

, Volume 217, Issue 1, pp 1–11 | Cite as

Involvement of vasa homolog in germline recruitment from coelomic stem cells in budding tunicates

Original Article


We investigated the mechanism by which germline cells are recruited in every asexual reproductive cycle of the budding tunicate Polyandrocarpa misakiensis using a vasa homolog (PmVas) as the germline-specific probe. A presumptive gonad of Polyandrocarpa arose as a loose cell aggregate in the ventral hemocoel of a 1-week-old developing zooid. It developed into a compact clump of cells and then separated into two lobes, each differentiating into the ovary and the testis. The ovarian tube that was formed at the bottom of the ovary embedded the oogonia and juvenile oocytes, forming the germinal epithelium. PmVas was expressed strongly by loose cell aggregates, compact clumps, and peripheral germ cells in the testis and germinal epithelium. No signals were detected in growing buds and less than 1-week-old zooids, indicating that germ cells arise de novo in developing zooids of P. misakiensis. Cells of the loose cell aggregates were 5–6 μm in diameter. They looked like undifferentiated hemoblasts in the hemocoel. To examine the involvement of PmVas in the germline recruitment at postembryonic stages, both growing buds and 1-week-old developing zooids were soaked with double-stranded PmVas RNA. The growing buds developed into fertile zooids expressing PmVas, whereas the 1-week-old zooids developed into sterile zooids that did not express PmVas. In controls (1-week-old zooids) soaked with double-stranded lacZ RNA, the gonad developed normally. These results strongly suggest that in P. misakiensis, PmVas plays a decisive role in switching from coelomic stem cells to germ cells.


Budding Germline RNAi Tunicate Vasa 



We thank Mmes. Kayo Takeuchi and Yuko Tsuji for the preparation of specimens. We also thank Dr. Shigeki Fujiwara for valuable discussion and technical assistance throughout the course of study. Thanks are also due to the staff of the Usa Marine Research Center, Kochi University for providing facilities for the culture of animals.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Takeshi Sunanaga
    • 1
  • Ayumi Watanabe
    • 1
  • Kazuo Kawamura
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biotechnology, Faculty of ScienceKochi UniversityKochiJapan

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