Egg activation at fertilization in the sea urchin results in the exocytosis of approximately 15,000 cortical granules that are docked at the plasma membrane. Previously, we reported that several integral membrane proteins modeled in the SNARE hypothesis, synaptotagmin, VAMP, and syntaxin, in addition to a small GTPase of the ras superfamily, rab3, were present on cortical granules (Conner, S., Leaf, D., and Wessel, G., Mol. Reprod. Dev. 48, 1-13, 1997). Here we report that rab3 is associated with cortical granules throughout oogenesis, during cortical granule translocation, and while docked at the egg plasma membrane. Following cortical granule exocytosis, however, rab3 reassociates with a different population of vesicles, at least some of which are of endocytic origin. Because of its selective association with cortical granules in eggs and oocytes, we hypothesize that rab3 functions in cortical granule exocytosis. To test this hypothesis, we used a strategy of interfering with rab3 function by peptide competition with its effector domain, a conserved region within specific tab types. We first identified the effector domain sequence in Lytechinus variegatus eggs and find the sequence 94% identical to the effector domain of rab3 in Stronglocentrotus purpuratus. Then, with synthetic peptides to different regions of the rab3 protein, we find that cortical granule exocytosis is inhibited in eggs injected with effector domain peptides, but not with peptides from the hypervariable region or with a scrambled effector peptide. Additionally, effector-peptide-injected eggs injected with IP3 are blocked in their ability to exocytose cortical granules, suggesting that the inhibition is directly on the membrane fusion event and not the result of interference with the signal transduction mechanism leading to calcium release. We interpret these results to mean that rab3 functions in the regulation of cortical granule exocytosis following vesicle docking.
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We are grateful to the members of the Providence Institute of Molecular Oogenesis for many insightful discussions and a stimulating working environment. We also thank Dr. Laurinda Jaffe and Dr. David Carroll who provided invaluable microinjection expertise and acknowledge Dr. Gary LaFleur and Dr. David Leaf for helpful comments on the manuscript and to the NIH, NSF, and the March of Dimes for their support of this work.
- Cortical granules
- Stimulus-dependent exocytosis