Maturation and fertilization of the starfish oocyte are putative calcium-dependent events. We have investigated the spatial distribution and temporal dynamics of this calcium dependence in single oocytes of Asterias forbesi. We used the calcium photoprotein, aequorin, in conjunction with a microscope-photomultiplier and microscope-image intensifier. Surprisingly, in contrast to earlier work with Marasthenias glacialis, there is no detectable increase in intracellular-free calcium in the oocyte of A. forbesi in response to the maturation hormone 1-methyl adenine. During fertilization of the same, matured, A. forbesi oocyte there is a large increase in intracellular-free calcium. The calcium concentration increases to approximately 1 microM at the point of insemination and the region of elevated free calcium expands across the oocyte in approximately 20 s (17-19 degrees C). After the entire oocyte reaches an elevated concentration of free calcium, the concentration decreases uniformly throughout the oocyte over the next several minutes.

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