The state of actin in the isolated cortex of the unfertilized sea urchin egg can be controlled by experimentally manipulating the pH of the isolation medium. Cortices isolated at the pH of the unfertilized egg (6.5--6.7) do not contain filamentous actin, while those isolated at the pH of the fertilized egg (7.3--7.5) develop large numbers of microvilli which contain bundles of actin filaments. Cortices that are isolated at pH 6.5 and then transferred to isolation medium buffered at pH 7.5 also develop actin filaments. However, the filaments are not arranged in bundles and microvilli do not form. Although the cortical granules in cortices isolated at pH 6.5 discharge at a free Ca++ concentration of approximately 10 micrometer, actin polymerization is not induced by increasing the Ca++ concentration of the isolation medium. These results suggest that the increase in cytoplasmic pH which occurs following fertilization induces the polymerization of actin in the egg cortex.

This content is only available as a PDF.