The Yellow Crescent of Ascidian Eggs: Molecular Organization, Localization and Role in Early Development

  • William R. Jeffery
  • Craig R. Tomlinson
  • Richard D. Brodeur
  • Stephen Meier


The molecular composition, localization, and role in early development of the yellow crescent cytoplasm is reviewed. The yellow, myoplasmic crescent is a localized cytoplasmic region preferentially distributed to the muscle and mesenchyme lineage cells during early development of ascidian eggs. It consists of a collection of lipid pigment granules with numerous adherent mitochondria underlain by a specific cytoskeletal domain. The yellow crescent cytoskeleton is comprised of a superficial, sub-membrane network of actin filaments (PML) and a more internal filamentous lattice which connects pigment granules and possibly other cytoplasmic organelles to the cell surface. The yellow crescent originates during oogenesis and is uniformly distributed around the periphery of the mature, unfertilized egg. After fertilization the peripheral cytoplasm streams into the vegetal hemisphere forming the yellow crescent. The yellow crescent cytoskeleton, under the direction of local changes in the concentration of calcium ions, seems to be involved in this movement. Although relatively poor in total mRNA, the yellow crescent is highly enriched in mRNA sequences coding for cytoplasmic actin. The enrichment in actin mRNA is due to an association of these molecules with yellow crescent cytoskeletal elements. In general, however, prevalent messages in the yellow crescent region are not qualitatively different from those in other areas of the egg. A wide variety of different proteins are also found in the yellow crescent which are a subset of those present in the whole egg. There is strong evidence that the yellow crescent contains cytoplasmic determinants which are segregated during cleavage and specify muscle cell properties in the cells they enter. The molecular nature and mode of action of these agents, however, remains to be determined.


Germinal Vesicle Cytoplasmic Region Pigment Granule Actin mRNA Vegetal Pole 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • William R. Jeffery
    • 1
  • Craig R. Tomlinson
    • 1
  • Richard D. Brodeur
    • 1
  • Stephen Meier
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of TexasAustinUSA

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