Zinc-binding property of the major yolk protein in the sea urchin − implications of its role as a zinc transporter for gametogenesis

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Major yolk protein (MYP), a transferrin superfamily protein that forms yolk granules in sea urchin eggs, is also contained in the coelomic fluid and nutritive phagocytes of the gonad in both sexes. MYP in the coelomic fluid (CFMYP; 180 kDa) has a higher molecular mass than MYP in eggs (EGMYP; 170 kDa). Here we show that MYP has a zinc-binding capacity that is diminished concomitantly with its incorporation from the coelomic fluid into the gonad in the sea urchin Pseudocentrotus depressus. Most of the zinc in the coelomic fluid was bound to CFMYP, whereas zinc in eggs was scarcely bound to EGMYP. Both CFMYP and EGMYP were present in nutritive phagocytes, where CFMYP bound more zinc than EGMYP. Saturation binding assays revealed that CFMYP has more zinc-binding sites than EGMYP. Labeled CFMYP injected into the coelom was incorporated into ovarian and testicular nutritive phagocytes and vitellogenic oocytes, and the molecular mass of part of the incorporated CFMYP shifted to 170 kDa. Considering the fact that the digestive tract is a major production site of MYP, we propose that CFMYP transports zinc, essential for gametogenesis, from the digestive tract to the ovary and testis through the coelomic fluid, after which part of the CFMYP is processed to EGMYP with loss of zinc-binding site(s).

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