A study was made of the diffusion of the red pigment echinochrome from the eggs of the sea urchin, Arbacia punctulata, into sea water.
Unfertilized eggs retained their pigment, over periods of hours. Outward diffusion of pigment from unfertilized eggs normally is entirely negligible, or does not occur at all. Enchancing the calcium or potassium content of the artificial sea water (while retaining isosmotic conditions) did not induce pigment release.
Under anaerobic conditions, unfertilized eggs release pigment in small quantities.
Fertilization alone brings about echinochrome release. Fertilized eggs invariably released pigment, whether in normal sea water, or sea water with increased calcium or potassium. This diffusion of the pigment began during the first cleavage, possibly soon after fertilization.
The pigment release is not a consequence solely of the cell's permeability to echinochrome (or chromoprotein, or other pigment combination) but is preceded by events leading to a release of echinochrome from the granules in which it is concentrated within the cell. These events may be initiated by activation or by anaerobiosis.
The phenomenon was not due to cytolysis.