The mature penaeid oocytes possess cortical rods that contain two related cortical rod proteins (CRP, 28.6 kDa and 30.5 kDa). In the present study, localization of CRP mRNA and gene expression profiles of CRP and vitellogenin (Vg) during ovarian development were examined in kuruma prawn, Marsupenaeus japonicus, an economically important species for shrimp and prawn farming. Northern blot analysis revealed that CRP mRNA was expressed in the ovary. In situ hybridization showed strong signals for CRP transcripts in the oocytes at early developmental stages in both immature and mature ovaries. Quantitative analysis by real-time polymerase chain reaction revealed that CRP mRNA levels were higher in the previtellogenic and endogenous (primary) vitellogenic stages than in more advanced stages. Unlike CRP mRNA, Vg mRNA levels were low in the ovary and hepatopancreas in previtellogenic females. When the ovary developed into the endogenous vitellogenic stage, ovarian Vg mRNA levels increased significantly, followed by rapid decrease in more advanced stages. The Vg mRNA levels in the hepatopancreas, on the other hand, tended to be high in the exogenous (secondary) vitellogenic and maturation stages, in which ovarian Vg mRNA levels were decreased. Our findings indicate that CRP mRNA is highly expressed before the onset of vitellogenesis, suggesting that the transcription, translation, and cortical-rod formation of CRP occur at different phases of oocyte development. The endogenous vitellogenic stage is a crucial stage for the initiation of CRP and Vg syntheses. The coincidence of these protein syntheses suggests that CRP and Vg syntheses are regulated by closely-related mechanisms.
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