Transcriptional control of tektin A mRNA correlates with cilia development and length determination during sea urchin embryogenesis

J. M. Norrander, R. W. Linck, R. E. Stephens

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38 Scopus citations


Previous studies have shown that tektin A, one of three integral filamentous protein components of outer doublet microtubules, is synthesized in sea urchins in an amount correlating to the length of embryonic cilia initially assembled or experimentally regenerated. To investigate further the molecular mechanism for the regulation of tektin synthesis, tektin cDNA clones were used to assess mRNA levels during ciliogenesis, zinc-induced animalization, deciliation-induced regeneration and theophylline-induced elongation. Possibly involved in centriole replication, low, near-constant levels of mRNA for all three tektins are present in the unfertilized egg and during cleavage stages. Preceded by new synthesis of tektin B and C mRNAs, tektin A mRNA is up-regulated during ciliogenesis, but only tektin A mRNA levels correlate directly with ciliary length in animalized embryos; the others augment larger, non-limiting pools of tektins B and C. Tektin mRNAs decrease to steady-state levels after ciliogenesis, but are up-regulated again when the embryos are deciliated, correlating with the length of cilia to be deployed. In a species where a 3-fold ciliary length increase can be induced by theophylline treatment of zinc-arrested embryos, the mRNAs accumulate to proportionately higher levels during arrest but are not translated until induction, whereupon they decrease inversely with ciliary elongation. This suggests transcriptional control with respect to mRNA amounts but post-transcriptional control with respect to the expression of this phenotype. These data are consistent with a model in which (1) tektin filaments serve as linear determinants of microtubule doublet structure, and (2) the fixed amount of tektin A mRNA and protein synthesis consequently limit the length of doublets that can be co-assembled from larger pools of tektins B and C, tubulin, and other components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1615-1623
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Cilia
  • Ciliogenesis
  • Length regulation
  • Messenger RNA
  • Sea urchin embryo
  • Tektin


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