Some embryos of Ciona intestinalis which were permanently cleavage-arrested with cytochalasin B at the 1-cell, 4-cell, or 8-cell stages produced, after 12 or 16 h of development time (18 °C), a level of muscle acetylcholinesterase activity equal to that found in normal early and later larval stage embryos of the same age. Enzyme activity was measured quantitatively in single whole embryos by a colorimetric procedure using microdensitometry. Quantitative regulation of a differentiation end product indicated that the usual transcriptional and translational control mechanisms for that histospecific protein continued to operate normally in the cleavage-arrested embryos. Acetylcholinesterase expression was apparently regulated independently of the usual cell cytoplasmic volume in the muscle lineage cells and possibly also independently of the normal nuclear number in the lineage. There is an egg cytoplasmic determinant that is segregated into the muscle lineage cells during cleavage and which appears to specify the pathway of larval muscle development. Quantitative control of muscle acetylcholinesterase is possibly one of the consequences of how the agent releases genetic expression in the presumptive muscle cells. Quantitative regulation was not, however, a general functional activity of cleavage-arrested embryos. Mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase, an enzyme whose development is believed to be unaffected by cytoplasmic determinants, was not regulated quantitatively in cleavage-arrested embryos. Cytochrome oxidase activity of cleavage-arrested embryos, measured in single whole embryos by a colorimetric microdensitometry assay, increased only slightly during 16 h of development time whereas the activity in normal control embryos doubled during that time.

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