[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The early localization of mRNA transcripts is critical in sorting cell fate determinants in the developing embryo. In the glossiphoniid leech, Helobdella robusta, maternal mRNAs, such as Hro-twist, localize to the zygotic teloplasm. Ten seven nucleotide repeat elements (AAUAAUA) called ARE2 and a predicted secondary structural motif, called teloplasm localization motif (TLM), are present in the 3'UTR of Hro-twist mRNA. We used site-directed mutagenesis, deletions, and microinjection of labeled, exogenous transcripts to determine if ARE2 elements, and the TLM, play a role in Hro-twist mRNA localization. Deleting the poly-A tail and the cytoplasmic polyadenylation element (CPE) had no effect on Hro-twist mRNA localization. Site-directed mutagenesis of nucleotides that altered ARE2 element sequences or the TLM suggest that the ARE2 elements and the TLM are important for Hro-twist mRNA localization to the teloplasm of pre-cleavage zygotes. Hro-Twist protein expression data suggest that the localization of Hro-twist transcripts in zygotes and stage two embryos is not involved in ensuring mesoderm specification, as Hro-Twist protein is expressed uniformly in most cells before gastrulation. Our data may support a shared molecular mechanism for leech transcripts that localize to the teloplasm.