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Keywords:

  • Ultrastructure;
  • Biochemistry;
  • Maturation;
  • Comparative;
  • Oocytes

Abstract

This review of the anatomical, histological, biochemical, and molecular biological literature on echinoderm oogenesis includes the entire developmental history of oocytes; from their inception to the time they become ova. This is done from a comparative perspective, with reference to members of the five extant echinoderm classes; crinoids, holothurians, asteroids, ophiuroids, and echinoids. I describe the anatomy and fine structure of the echinoderm ovary, with emphasis on both the cellular relationships of the germ line cells to the somatic cells of the inner epithelium, and on the neuromuscular systems. I review the literature on the growth of oogonia into fully formed oocytes, including the process of vitellogenesis, presenting an ultrastructural analysis of the organelles and extracellular structures found in fully formed echinoderm oocytes. Echinoderm oocyte maturation is reviewed and a description of the ultrastructural, biochemical and molecular biological changes thought to occur during this process is presented. Finally, I discuss oocyte ovulation, the severing of cellular connections between the oocyte and its surrounding somatic epithelial cells.