Maternal mRNAs play crucial roles during early embryogenesis of ascidians, but their functions are largely unknown. In this study, we developed a new method to specifically knockdown maternal mRNAs in Ciona intestinalis using transposon-mediated transgenesis. We found that GFP expression is epigenetically silenced in Ciona intestinalis oocytes and eggs, and this epigenetic silencing of GFP was used to develop the knockdown method. When the 52 upstream promoter and 52 untranslated region (UTR) of a maternal gene are used to drive GFP in eggs, the maternal gene is specifically knocked down together with GFP. The 52 UTR of the maternal gene is the major element that determines the target gene silencing. Zygotic transcription of the target gene is unaffected, suggesting that the observed phenotypes specifically reflect the maternal function of the gene. This new method can provide breakthroughs in studying the functions of maternal mRNAs.
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