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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2011, Article ID 730356, 9 pages
Research Article

Expression of Pigment Cell-Specific Genes in the Ontogenesis of the Sea Urchin Strongylocentrotus intermedius

1A.V. Zhirmunsky Institute of Marine Biology, Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Palchevsky Street 17, Vladivostok 690041, Russia
2Institute of Biology and Soil Sciences, FEB RAS, Vladivostok 690022, Russia
3Far Eastern Federal University, Vladivostok 690950, Russia

Received 12 January 2011; Accepted 16 May 2011

Copyright © 2011 Natalya V. Ageenko et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


One of the polyketide compounds, the naphthoquinone pigment echinochrome, is synthesized in sea urchin pigment cells. We analyzed polyketide synthase (pks) and sulfotransferase (sult) gene expression in embryos and larvae of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus intermedius from various stages of development and in specific tissues of the adults. We observed the highest level of expression of the pks and sult genes at the gastrula stage. In unfertilized eggs, only trace amounts of the pks and sult transcripts were detected, whereas no transcripts of these genes were observed in spermatozoids. The addition of shikimic acid, a precursor of naphthoquinone pigments, to zygotes and embryos increased the expression of the pks and sult genes. Our findings, including the development of specific conditions to promote pigment cell differentiation of embryonic sea urchin cells in culture, represent a definitive study on the molecular signaling pathways that are involved in the biosynthesis of pigments during sea urchin development.