Histone gene expression during sea urchin embryogenesis: Isolation and characterization of early and late messenger RNAs ofStrongylocentrotus purpuratus by gene-specific hybridization and template activity

Geoffrey Childs, Robert Maxson, Laurence H. Kedes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

94 Scopus citations

Abstract

We have examined the molecular mechanisms responsible for the shifts in histone protein phenotype during embryogenesis in the sea urchinStrongylocentrotus purpuratus. The H1, H2A, and H2B classes of histone synthesized at the earliest stages of cleavage are heterogeneous: These proteins are replaced at late embryogenesis by a different set of histone-like polypeptides, some of which are also heterogeneous. The H3 and H4 histones appear to be homogeneous classes and remain constant. We have isolated from both early and late embryos the individual messenger RNAs coding for each of the multiple protein subtypes. The RNAs were isolated by hybridization to cloned DNA segments coding for a single histone protein or by elution from polyacrylamide gels. Each RNA was then analyzed and identified by its mobility on polyacrylamide gels and by its template activity in the wheat germ cell-free protein synthesizing system. The mRNAs for each of the five early histone protein classes are heterogeneous in size and differ from the late stage templates. The late mRNAs consist of at least 11 separable types coding for the 5 classes of histones. Each of the 11 has been separated and identified. The late stage proteins were shown to be authentic histones since many of their templates hybridize with histone coding DNA. The early and late stage mRNAs are transcribed from different sets of histone genes since (1) late stage H1 and H2A mRNAs fail to hybridize to cloned early stage histone genes under ideal conditions for detecting homologous early stage hybrids, (2) late stage H2B, H3, and H4 RNA/DNA hybrids melt at 14, 11, and 11°C lower, respectively, than do homologous RNA/DNA hybrids, and (3) purified late stage mRNAs direct the synthesis of the variant histone proteins which are synthesized only during later stages. The time course of synthesis of the late stage mRNAs suggests that they appear many hours before the late histone proteins can be detected, possibly as early as fertilization. In addition, early mRNAs are synthesized in small quantities as late as 40 hr after fertilization, during gastrulation. Thus, the major modulations of histone gene expression are neither abrupt nor an absolute on-off switch, and may represent only a gradual and relative repression of early gene expression. Two histones are detected only transiently during early cleavage. The mRNA for one of them, a subtype of H2A, can be detected in the cytoplasm for as long as 40 hr after fertilization. However, template activity for the other, a subtype of H2B, can be detected only at the blastula stage. Thus, the histone genes represent a complex multigene family that is developmentally modulated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-173
Number of pages21
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Volume73
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1979
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

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