The ER of eggs of the sea urchin Lytechinus pictus was stained by microinjecting a saturated solution of the fluorescent dicarbocyanine DiIC18(3) (DiI) in soybean oil; the dye spread from the oil drop into ER membranes throughout the egg but not into other organelles. Confocal microscopy revealed large cisternae extending throughout the interior of the egg and a tubular membrane network at the cortex. Since diffusion of DiI is confined to continuous bilayers, the spread of the dye supports the concept that the ER is a cell-wide, interconnected compartment. In time lapse observations, the internal cisternae were seen to be in continuous motion, while the cortical ER was stationary. After fertilization, the internal ER appeared to become more finely divided, beginning as a wave apparently coincident with the calcium wave and becoming most marked by 2-3 min. By 5-8 min the ER returned to an organization similar to that of the unfertilized egg. The cortical network also changed at fertilization; it became disrupted and eventually recovered. DiI labeling allowed continuous observations of the ER during pronuclear migration and mitosis. DiI-stained membranes accumulated in the region of the microtubule array surrounding the sperm nucleus and centriole (the sperm aster) as it migrated to the center of the egg; this accumulation persisted near the centrosomes and zygote nucleus throughout pronuclear fusion and the first two mitotic cycles. We have used a new method to observe the spatial and temporal organization of the ER in a living cell, and we have demonstrated a striking reorganization of the ER at fertilization.

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