Vasa and the germ line lineage in a colonial urochordate

Amalia Rosner, Elizabeth Moiseeva, Yuval Rinkevich, Ziva Lapidot, Baruch Rinkevich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Germ cell sequestering in Animalia is enlightened by either, launching true germ line along epigenetic or preformistic modes of development, or by somatic embryogenesis, where no true germ line is set aside. The research on germ line-somatic tissue segregation is of special relevancy to colonial organisms like botryllid ascidians that reconstruct, on a weekly basis, completely new sets of male and female gonads in newly formed somatic tissues. By sequencing and evaluating expression patterns of BS-Vasa, the Botryllus schlosseri orthologue of Vasa, in sexually mature and asexual colonies during blastogenesis, we have demonstrated that the BS-Vasa mRNA and protein are not expressed exclusively in germ cell lineages, but appeared in cells repeatedly emerging de novo in the colony, independently of its sexual state. In addition, we recorded an immediate Vasa response to cellular stress (UV irradiation) indicating additional functions to its germ line assignments. To confirm germ lineage exclusivity, we examined the expression of three more stem cell markers (BS-Pl10, Bl-piwi and Oct4). Vasa co-expression with Pl10 and Oct4 was detected in germ line derivatives and with Bl-piwi in somatic tissues. Presumptive primordial germ cells (PGC-like cells), that are Vasa+/Pl10+/Oct4+ and 6-12 μm in diameter, were first detected in wrapped-tail embryos, in oozooids, in sexual/asexual colonies, within a newly identified PGC niche termed as 'budlet niche', and in circulating blood borne cells, indicating epigenetic embryogenesis. Alternatively, BS-Vasa co-expression with piwi orthologue, an omnipresent bona fide stemness flag, in non germ line cell populations, may indicate germ cell neogenesis (somatic embryogenesis) in B. schlosseri. Both alternatives are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-128
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank G. Paz for technical assistance. This study was supported by grants from the Marine Genomics Europe Network of Excellence (EDD Node), the United States–Israel Bi-National Science Foundation (2003-010) and the Israel Academy of Science (550-06).


  • BS-Pl10
  • BS-Vasa
  • Botryllus schlosseri
  • Germ cells
  • Oct4
  • Piwi
  • Urochordate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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