Within minutes of fertilization of clam oocytes, translation of a set of maternal mRNAs is activated. One of the most abundant of these stored mRNAs encodes the small subunit of ribonucleotide reductase (Standart, N. M., S. J. Bray, E. L. George, T. Hunt, and J. V. Ruderman, 1985, J. Cell Biol., 100:1968-1976). Unfertilized oocytes do not contain any ribonucleotide reductase activity; such activity begins to appear shortly after fertilization. In virtually all organisms, this enzyme is composed of two dissimilar subunits with molecular masses of approximately 44 and 88 kD, both of which are required for activity. This paper reports the identification of the large subunit of clam ribonucleotide reductase isolated by dATP-Sepharose chromatography as a relatively abundant 86-kD polypeptide which is already present in oocytes, and whose level remains constant during early development. The enzyme activity of this large subunit was established in reconstitution assays using the small subunit isolated from embryos by virtue of its binding to the anti-tubulin antibody YL 1/2. Thus the two components of clam ribonucleotide reductase are differentially stored in the oocyte: the small subunit in the form of untranslated mRNA and the large subunit as protein. When fertilization triggers the activation of translation of the maternal mRNA, the newly synthesized small subunit combines with the preformed large subunit to generate active ribonucleotide reductase.

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