The sea urchin egg jelly coat consists of globular glycoproteins bound to a fibrous fucan superstructure

B. S. Bonnell, S. H. Keller, V. D. Vacquier, D. E. Chandler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Intact egg jelly (EJ) coats surrounding eggs of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus were visualized in stereo images of platinum replicas produced by the quickfreeze, deep-etch, rotary-shadowing technique. The hydrated EJ coat forms an extensive fibrous network that makes contact with the vitelline layer at the egg surface. Fibers are decorated along their length with particles, particle density being highest in the interior regions of the coat. The macromolecular components making up the EJ network were visualized by rotary-shadowing of mica-adsorbed EJ samples. Whole EJ coats solubilized in pH 5 seawater and spread on the mica surface consist of complex networks of branching fibers decorated with large patches of amorphous material. As we have previously shown (Keller and Vacquier, 1994), EJ boiled in a dissolution buffer containing SDS and β-mercaptoethanol and applied to a Sephacryl-500 gel filtration column can be separated into three fractions: a 380-kDa fucose sulfate polymer (FSP), which elutes in the void volume, and two column-included fractions consisting of intermediate (300 kDa) and low-molecular-weight (30- to 138-kDa) glycoproteins. Rotary-shadowing of the FSP fraction reveals branched fibrous components similar in appearance to that of solubilized whole EJ but devoid of any particulate decoration. In contrast, intermediate- and low-molecular-weight EJ components are strictly globular in appearance but are distinguishable on the basis of size. Ion-exchange purification of whole EJ yields two glycoproteins, of 82 and 138 kDa, having AR-inducing activity (Keller and Vacquier, 1994). Platinum replication shows these active components to be small spherical molecules about 8 nm in diameter. The above fractionation scheme requires harsh dissociation conditions. Indeed, if EJ is not boiled in SDS buffer before fractionation, the 300-kDa fraction and the FSP appear together in the void volume. Rotary-shadowing of this complex reveals a multistranded polymer, decorated with glycoproteins at specific kink points. Taken together, our data suggest that the EJ network is composed of a fucose sulfate polymer superstructure to which glycoproteins are bound.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-324
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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