Release from meiotic arrest in ascidian eggs requires the activity of two phosphatases but not CaMKII.
The kinase Mos, which activates intracellularly the MAP kinase pathway, is a key regulator of animal oocyte meiotic maturation. In vertebrate and echinoderm models, Mos RNA translation upon oocyte hormonal stimulation mediates "cytostatic" arrest of the egg after meiosis, as well as diverse earlier events [1-5]. Our phylogenetic survey has revealed that MOS genes are conserved in cnidarians and ctenophores, but not found outside the metazoa or in sponges. We demonstrated MAP kinase-mediated cytostatic activity for Mos orthologs from Pleurobrachia (ctenophore) and Clytia (cnidarian) by RNA injection into Xenopus blastomeres. Analyses of endogenous Mos in Clytia with morpholino antisense oligonucleotides and pharmacological inhibition demonstrated that Mos/MAP kinase function in postmeiotic arrest is conserved. They also revealed additional roles in spindle formation and positioning, strongly reminiscent of observations in starfish, mouse, and Xenopus. Unusually, cnidarians were found to possess multiple Mos paralogs. In Clytia, one of two maternally expressed paralogs accounted for the majority MAP kinase activation during maturation, whereas the other may be subject to differential translational regulation and have additional roles. Our findings indicate that Mos appeared early during animal evolution as an oocyte-expressed kinase and functioned ancestrally in regulating core specializations of female meiosis.