Hormonal regulation and expression of vitellogenin multigene family.

J. R. Tata, T. C. James, C. S. Watson, J. L. Williams, A. P. Wolffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Yolk proteins are the most abundant egg proteins in oviparous animals. They are deposited during oocyte maturation for use after fertilization and are synthesized in the liver or fat body as a common precursor termed vitellogenin. Hybridization with cloned DNA complementary to vitellogenin messenger RNA has revealed a surprisingly high degree of evolutionary conservation of sequence of vitellogenin genes among insects, amphibians and birds. The synthesis of vitellogenin in vertebrates is directly under the control of oestrogen at the level of gene transcription. In the frog, Xenopus, vitellogenin genes occur as a multigene family, four of which are actively expressed and are grouped as A and B genes. This multiplicity offers a useful system for investigating the possible selective hormonal regulation of expression of individual members of multigene families. When X. laevis vitellogenin genes were activated by oestrogen in the liver of whole animals or in cultures of parenchymal cells, the two groups of expressed genes were not induced in an identical manner in cells from male and female animals. The activation of A and B groups of genes was non-coordinate in male hepatocytes and coordinate in female cells. Prior exposure of male hepatocytes to oestradiol in vivo or in culture caused the pattern of expression to shift to that in female cells. Since the X. laevis oocyte itself does not synthesize vitellogenin in response to oestrogen, an attempt was made to activate its dormant vitellogenin genes by transferring oestrogen-binding proteins from the liver. Preliminary results show that the microinjection into the oocyte of a preparation containing liver receptor-hormone complex led to the synthesis of vitellogenin by the oocyte. Extension of these experiments will not only enable a more precise analysis of the activation of the vitellogenin multigene family to be made but will also provide direct functional evidence for the role played by steroid hormone receptors in regulating gene expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-110
Number of pages15
JournalCiba Foundation symposium
StatePublished - 1983
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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