In Xenopus laevis, vitellogenin (the yolk precursor) is synthesized in the liver and transported via the circulatory system to the ovary. In order to reach developing oocytes where it is sequestered, it must exit the circulatory system and traverse several follicular tissue layers including the theca, the follicle cell layer, and the vitelline envelope. This study demonstrates this pathway by means of electron-opaque tracers, and follows the fate of heterologous macromolecules after their incorporation into the ooplasm. The tracers used were horseradish peroxidase, iron dextran, ferritin, and thorotrast. The bulk of the tracers exit the circulatory system through gaps between adjacent capillary endothelial cells and migrate into the connective tissue theca, where they appear randomly dispersed. All tracers, except thorotrast, penetrate the basement membrane on the distal surface of the follicle cells and pass through channels between adjacent follicle cells into the vitelline envelope and to the surface of developing oocytes, where they are incorporated by endocytosis. Endosomes which contain tracer, and also presumably vitellogenin, fuse to form primordial yolk platelets. During this fusion process an extensive network of smooth-surfaced tubules arises in the peripheral ooplasm. Endosomes and/or primordial yolk platelets continue to fuse with each other, resulting in the growth of primordial platelets which move deeper into the ooplasm, where they are transformed into yolk platelets with crystalline main bodies. Peroxidase and iron dextran remain in the superficial layer of the platelet, while ferritin is present in both the superficial layer and the crystalline main body.
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