Structure of the Spec1 gene encoding a major calcium-binding protein in the embryonic ectoderm of the sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Academic Article uri icon


  • We have identified and characterized the structure of the Spec1 gene in the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. In earlier studies we demonstrated that a small family of messenger RNAs, termed Spec mRNAs for S. purpuratus ectodermal mRNAs, begins to accumulate 20 hours after fertilization in ectoderm cells of the sea urchin embryo. The Spec mRNAs code for a group of low molecular weight proteins belonging to the troponin C superfamily. Spec1 transcripts, the predominant mRNAs of the family, are heterogeneous in their 3' untranslated sequences but code for a single protein, recently shown to be a calcium-binding protein. Spec complementary DNA clones were used to isolate genomic clones from two lambda libraries. These genomic clones comprise a 41 kb (kb = 10(3) bases or base-pairs) region of the S. purpuratus genome and contain a Spec1 gene closely linked to another Spec gene, Spec2c. The Spec1 gene is 10.3 kb in length and contains six exons. The genomic clones containing the Spec1 gene can be placed into two groups based on restriction fragment length differences and differences in hybridization strengths using probes derived from Spec1 3' untranslated regions. Evidence that these groups probably correspond to two alleles of the Spec1 gene was obtained by probing genomic DNA blots of sperm DNA from different individuals with 3' untranslated sequences of Spec1 complementary DNA clones. These blots show that two of the Spec1 mRNAs we have characterized, and probably a third, are alleles of the Spec1 gene. Thus, there appears to be a single polymorphic Spec1 gene in the sea urchin genome. We used S1 protection and primer extension procedures to map the 5' end of the Spec1 gene. Results from these experiments indicate that the initiation of transcription of the Spec1 mRNA begins at an A residue 220 bases from the 3' end of the first exon. Adding support to this claim, cannonical T-A-T-A and C-A-A-T sequences, indicative of many eukaryotic promoters, are found 23 bases and 60 bases upstream from this site, respectively. Analysis of sequences within a few kb of the Spec1 gene show that there are five members of a repetitive sequence family near the gene, three upstream and two downstream. The 5' leader sequence of another Spec mRNA, Spec2a, also contains a member of this repeat family.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

published proceedings

  • J Mol Biol

author list (cited authors)

  • Hardin, S. H., Carpenter, C. D., Hardin, P. E., Bruskin, A. M., & Klein, W. H.

citation count

  • 77

complete list of authors

  • Hardin, SH||Carpenter, CD||Hardin, PE||Bruskin, AM||Klein, WH

publication date

  • January 1985