Identification and characterization of the vegetally localized Hermes mRNA

Nancy Ruth Zearfoss, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


One way developing embryos regulate the expression of their genes is by localizing mRNAs to specific subcellular regions. In the oocyte of the frog, Xenopus laevis, many RNAs are localized specifically to the animal or the vegetal halves of the oocyte. The localization of these RNAs contributes to the primary polarity of the oocyte, the asymmetry that is the basis for patterning and lineage specification in the embryo. I have screened a cDNA library for clones containing the Xlsirt repeat, an element known to target RNAs to the vegetal cortex of the oocyte. I have identified seventeen cDNA clones that contain this element. One of these cDNAs encodes the RNA binding protein Hermes. The Hermes mRNA is localized to the vegetal cortex of the oocyte. Additionally, Hermes protein is also vegetally localized in the oocyte and is found in subcellular structures known to contain localized mRNAs. This suggests that Hermes might interact with localized RNAs. While Hermes protein is present in oocytes, it disappears at germinal vesicle breakdown during maturation. We therefore believe that the time period during which Hermes functions is during oogenesis or maturation prior to the time of Hermes degradation. To determine Hermes function, an antisense depletion strategy was used that involved injecting morpholino oligos (HE-MO) into oocytes. Injection of these morpholinos causes the level of Hennes protein to drop prematurely during maturation. Embryos produced from these oocytes exhibit cleavage defects that are most prevalent in the vegetal blastomeres. The phenotype can be partially rescued by injection of a heterologous Hermes mRNA and is therefore specific to Hermes. The Hermes expression and depletion results are consistent with a model in which Hermes interacts with one or more vegetally localized mRNAs in the oocyte and during the early stages of maturation. The interaction is required for cleavage of the vegetal blastomeres. Therefore, it is likely that at least one mRNA that interacts with Hermes is a cell cycle regulator.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Anatomy & physiology|Animals

Recommended Citation

Zearfoss, Nancy Ruth, "Identification and characterization of the vegetally localized Hermes mRNA" (2002). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3046074.