It is well known that sea urchin eggs, which exhibit quite a low rate of respiration before fertilisation, undergo a sudden increase in the rate of respiration followed by its gradual decrease in about a 15 min period after fertilisation (Ohnishi & Sugiyama, 1963; Epel, 1969), in which the respiration is mediated mainly by Ca2+-activated non-mitochondrial respiratory systems (Foerder et al., 1978; Perry & Epel, 1985a,b). During this short period the rate of mitochondrial respiration gradually increases (Yasumasu et al., 1988) and stabilises at a higher rate than before fertilisation (Warburg, 1908, 1910; Whitaker, 1933; Yasumasu & Nakano, 1963), when the respiration due to non-mitochondrial respiratory systems is turned off. The rate of mitochondrial respiration, once enhanced upon fertilisation, increases further in the period between hatching and the gastrula stage, without any changes in the number of mitochondria or the capacity of electron transport in the mitochondrial respiratory chain (Fujiwara & Yasumasu, 1997; Fujiwara et al., 2000). It is likely that the respiratory rate is reduced by regulation of electron transport in the mitochondrial respiratory chain and increases due to the release of electron transport from the regulation upon fertilisation and after hatching.
A marked increase in the respiratory rate after hatching is accompanied by an evident decrease in the ATP level without any change in the levels of ADP and AMP (Mita & Yasumasu, 1984). In isolated mitochondria, the rate of respiration, estimated in the presence of ADP at the same concentration as in embryos, is reduced by a high concentration of ATP as found in embryos before hatching but is not affected at a concentration as low as in gastrulae (Fujiwara & Yasumasu, 1997; Fujiwara et al., 2000) ATP at a high concentration probably blocks ATP release from mitochondria and consequently inhibits ADP uptake coupled to ATP release in the ATP/ADP translocation reaction in the mitochondrial membrane, causing a shortage of intra-mitochondrial ADP.