In nonplacental or nontrophotenic vertebrates, early development depends on the maternal provision of egg yolk, which is mainly derived from large multidomain vitellogenin (Vtg) precursors. To reveal the molecular nature of the protein pools in vertebrate oocytes, published data on the N-termini of yolk proteins has been mapped to the deduced primary structures of their parent Vtgs. The available evidence shows that the primary cleavage sites of Vtgs are conserved, whereas the cleavage products exist as multidomain variants in the yolk protein pool. The serine-rich phosvitin (Pv) domains are linearly related to the molecular masses of the lipovitellin heavy chain. The 3-D localization of Pv maps to the outer edges of the Vtg monomer, where it is proposed to form amphipathic structures that loop up over the lipid pocket. At this locus, it is proposed that Pv stabilizes the nascent Vtg while it receives its lipid cargo, thereby facilitating the hepatic loading and locking of lipid within the Vtg (C-sheet)-(A-sheet)-(LvL) cavity, and enhances its solubility following secretion to the circulating plasma. The C-terminal regions of Vtgs are homologous to human von Willebrand factor type D domains (Vwfd), which are conserved cysteine-rich molecules with homologous regions that are prevalent in Vtgs, lipophorins, mucins, integrins, and zonadhesins. Unlike human VWFD, lower vertebrate Vwfds do not contain RGD motifs, which are associated with extracellular matrix binding. Although its function in Vtg is unknown, the lubricant properties associated with mucins and the cell adhesion properties associated with integrins and zonadhesins implicate Vwfd in the genesis of hemostatic platelet aggregation. Similarly, the proteolytic inhibitory properties associated with the binding of factor VIII in humans suggest that Vwfd stabilizes Vtg during passage in the systemic circulation.
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Vol. 76 • No. 6