The vasa gene is a key determinant for germline formation in eukaryotes. This gene, highly conserved through evolution, encodes a RNA helicase protein member of the DEAD-box family. To understand the germline formation in oyster, we report here the isolation and the characterization of a vasa orthologue in Crassostrea gigas (Oyvlg). OyVLG contained the eight consensus domains of the DEAD-box including those providing RNA unwinding activity. The expression pattern of Oyvlg was examined in adult oyster tissues at different reproductive stages. Its expression was restricted to germline cells both in males and females, including germinal stem cells and auxiliary cells. The expression of Oyvlg, strongest in early germ cells, decreased as the maturation proceeded. These data and the evolutionary conservation observed suggested the role of Oyvlg in germline development. Oyvlg is the first germ cell specific marker in oyster and will be very useful in studies of oyster germline formation. © 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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