Penaeoid shrimp oocytes nearing the completion of oogenesis are enveloped in an acellular vitelline envelope and possess extracellular cortical rods (CRs) that extended into the cortical cytoplasm. These cortical specializations are precursors of the jelly layer (JL) of the egg. In searching for highly expressed mRNAs during oogenesis in the marine shrimp (Penaeus semisulcatus), two related cDNAs have been isolated that encode a mature protein of 250 amino acid residues. The deduced amino acid sequences revealed the presence of repeated cysteine-rich domains that are related to the chitin-binding domains of insect intestinal peritrophins. Similar cysteine-rich domains were reported in insect intestinal mucin, crustacean tachycitin, and invertebrate chitinases. The shrimp ovarian peritrophin (SOP) is glycosylated and can bind chitin when extracted from CRs. Its apparent molecular mass in SDS-PAGE is 29–35 kDa and 33–36 kDa, under nonreducing or reducing conditions, respectively. SOP is a major protein of CRs and the JL, and was immunodetected in ovaries; purified CRs; fertilized eggs that were surrounded by a JL matrix; and in the cloudy, whitish flocculent material appearing in sea water immediately after spawning. Immunolocalization in tissue sections determined that SOP was present in oocyte cytoplasm and in extraoocytic CRs. Shrimp expressed SOP mRNA in ovaries at all oocyte developmental stages, whereas expression in the hepatopancreas was restricted to vitellogenic stages. SOP mRNA was abundant in the shrimp ovary and was detected before the presence of the corresponding protein. This is the first demonstration that a protein with similar features to insect intestinal peritrophins is a component of CRs and is therefore a main precursor of the JL of spawned shrimp eggs.
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