Silkmoth follicles, arranged in a precise developmental sequence within the ovariole, yield pure and uniform populations of follicular epithelial cells highly differentiated for synthesis of the proteinaceous eggshell (chorion). These cells can be maintained and labeled efficiently in organ culture; their in vitro (and cell free) protein synthetic activity reflects their activity in vivo. During differentiation the cells undergo dramatic changes in protein synthesis. For 2 days the cells are devoted almost exclusively to production of distinctive chorion proteins of low molecular weight and of unusual amino acid composition. Each protein has its own characteristic developmental kinetics of synthesis. Each is synthesized as a separate polypeptide, apparently on monocistronic messenger RNA (mRNA), and thus reflects the expression of a distinct gene. The rapid changes in this tissue do not result from corresponding changes in translational efficiency. Thus, the peptide chain elongation rate is comparable for chorion and for proteins synthesized at earlier developmental stages (1.3–1.9 amino acids/sec); moreover, the spacing of ribosomes on chorion mRNA (30–37 codons per ribosome) is similar to that encountered in other eukaryotic systems.

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