Isolation and characterization of Vasa in the frog Rana rugosa.
ABSTRACT We cloned a cDNA encoding Vasa, a member of the DEAD (Asp-Glu-Ala-Asp) family of proteins, from the ovary of the frog Rana rugosa. Comparative alignment of amino acid sequences with known Vasa from several species of vertebrate showed that the R. rugosa orthologue shares eight conserved regions with Vasa from other vertebrates. Vasa gene expression was restricted to the testis and ovary among ten different tissues examined. Vasa expression showed no sexual dimorphism during sex determination in R. rugosa, but became higher in the ovary thereafter. By Western blot analysis, a single Vasa band with a molecular weight of 80.9 kDa was detected. The same antibody immunohistochemically detected Vasa in a few cells in the embryonic endoderm at stage 15; the beginning of closure of neural folds, and in the cytoplasm of spermatogonia in the testis, and oocytes in the ovary of tadpoles at stage XX; marked by one or both forelegs protruded. Together, these results suggest that Vasa is a highly specific marker of germ cells and hence useful for studies of germ cell specification and function in amphibians as it already is in other species of both invertebrates and vertebrates such as Drosophila and zebrafish.