Hatching enzyme of the ovoviviparous black rockfish Sebastes schlegelii– environmental adaptation of the hatching enzyme and evolutionary aspects of formation of the pseudogene

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The hatching enzyme of oviparous euteleostean fishes consists of two metalloproteases: high choriolytic enzyme (HCE) and low choriolytic enzyme (LCE). They cooperatively digest the egg envelope (chorion) at the time of embryo hatching. In the present study, we investigated the hatching of embryos of the ovoviviparous black rockfish Sebastes schlegelii. The chorion-swelling activity, HCE-like activity, was found in the ovarian fluid carrying the embryos immediately before the hatching stage. Two kinds of HCE were partially purified from the fluid, and the relative molecular masses of them matched well with those deduced from two HCE cDNAs, respectively, by MALDI-TOF MS analysis. On the other hand, LCE cDNAs were cloned; however, the ORF was not complete. These results suggest that the hatching enzyme is also present in ovoviviparous fish, but is composed of only HCE, which is different from the situation in other oviparous euteleostean fishes. The expression of the HCE gene was quite weak when compared with that of the other teleostean fishes. Considering that the black rockfish chorion is thin and fragile, such a small amount of enzyme would be enough to digest the chorion. The black rockfish hatching enzyme is considered to be well adapted to the natural hatching environment of black rockfish embryos. In addition, five aberrant spliced LCE cDNAs were cloned. Several nucleotide substitutions were found in the splice site consensus sequences of the LCE gene, suggesting that the products alternatively spliced from the LCE gene are generated by the mutations in intronic regions responsible for splicing.

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