The expression of the Spec1 gene of Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and its Lytechinus pictus homologue LpS1 was analyzed in reciprocal hybrid embryos of these two species of sea urchin. While the time course of accumulation of Spec1 mRNA was nearly normal in hybrid embryo populations, the accumulation of LpS1 mRNA was not. This was particularly evident in plutei, where the level of LpS1 mRNA was less than 5% that in normal L. pictus plutei. In situ hybridization analysis of serial sections indicated that LpS1 mRNA was detectable in only about 2% of hybrid plutei in either cross, whereas Spec1 mRNA was present in nearly all hybrid plutei; expression of either homologue was appropriately restricted to the aboral ectoderm. In crosses of L. pictus eggs with S. purpuratus sperm (LpSp), about 1% of hybrid plutei expressed LpS1 RNA in most or all aboral ectoderm cells at normal levels, and did not express Spec1 RNA; in another 1% of the LpSp hybrid plutei the Spec1 and LpS1 transcripts were present at normal levels in complementary, non-overlapping patches of contiguous aboral ectoderm cells. In the reciprocal SpLp cross, each hybrid pluteus expressed either only the LpS1 gene (about 2%) or only the Spec1 gene throughout the aboral ectoderm. In SpLp hybrid gastrulae the level of LpS1 mRNA was less restricted; about 2% of the embryos contained only LpS1 RNA, and about half expressed only Spec1 transcripts, but in the remaining embryos Spec1 and LpS1 transcripts were coexpressed in the same aboral ectoderm cells.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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