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Protein–protein interactions play a central role in the gamete attraction, binding, and fusion stages of gamete interactions and fertilization for broadcast spawning species, such as marine mussels in the Mytilus edulis species complex. Although assortative gamete interaction has been implicated in the level of reproductive isolation among the three species in this complex, the molecular basis of these interactions has not been elucidated. Using mass spectrometry peptide sequencing, cDNA sequencing, and bioinformatics approaches, we have investigated species-level variation in the proteins expressed on the surface of mussel eggs. We herein describe an extracellular protein, MESP-1, from the surface of the eggs of M. edulis and M. trossulus that has a unique domain structure when compared to protein structures that have heretofore been identified. Given variation in the size of MESP-1 predicted from cDNA sequences versus those estimated from SDS-PAGE gels, we conclude this protein is subject to significant species-specific post-translation modifications. Further, bioinformatic analysis of the novel structure of MESP-1 suggests that this protein may be an integral membrane protein involved in sperm–egg fusion, and/or released to the vitelline envelope.

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Invertebrate Reproduction and Development