To gain a better understanding of how corals form their eggs at both the molecular and cellular levels, we performed a differential screen (suppression subtractive hybridization) to identify genes related to oocyte development in a stony coral, Euphyllia ancora. Through the course of screening, a novel gene that contains three alternate repeats of fibronectin domain 2 and epidermal growth factor (EGF)-like domains, as well as an additional calcium-binding EGF-like domain (EGF-CA), was identified and tentatively named euphy after the scientific name of the coral, E. ancora. Quantitative RT-PCR revealed that expression levels of euphy increased in female colonies as the coral approached reproductive season. Tissue distribution analysis followed by mRNA in situ hybridization revealed that euphy is highly expressed in the ovarian (mesenterial) somatic cells in the body of E. ancora. Staining of tissue sections with an antibody against euphy protein (Euphy) revealed Euphy immunoreactivity in both ovarian somatic cells and oocytes. Subsequent Western blotting demonstrated the presence of abundant Euphy in unfertilized mature eggs. These results indicate that Euphy produced in the ovarian somatic cells is transported to and accumulates within oocytes as a yolk protein during oogenesis. We previously showed that two major yolk proteins, vitellogenin and egg protein, are similarly produced by ovarian somatic cells. Hence, the present study uncovered the third ovarian somatic-derived yolk protein in corals. Our data provide new information that contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of coral egg formation.
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Vol. 93 • No. 3