Abstract During vitellogenesis, oocytes of Botryllus schlosseri always exhibit an unusual system scattered in the cytoplasm. It consists of an association between a single fenestrated endoplasmic reticulum cisterna and one or a few smooth vesicles (cisterna vesicle association: CVA) containing a dense core facing the cisterna itself. The latter is smooth and perforated by numerous small pores (about 25 nm in diameter) in the area of association; towards the periphery, it extends into several branches with ribosomes bound to their membranes. In the vesicles, fibrillar material radiates from the dense core and is sometimes organized into a long, dense lamina. The membranes of both cisterna and vesicles appear to be coupled, but are in fact separated by a constant narrow space occupied by short densities. The presence in B. schlosseri of this unusual fenestrated membrane system contrasts with the absence of a typical porous cytoplasmic organelle, the annulate lamellae (ALs), which is widely distributed in female gametes. However, as in other animals, B. schlosseri oocytes possess intranuclear annulate lamellae (IALs) and vesicles. Comparative observations extended to the oocytes of the ascidian Ciona intestinalis have shown that the latter species exhibits typical ALs and IALs, but not the CVA. The morphology of the CVA is analysed here in detail, and similarities and differences with ALs are pointed out. Hypotheses regarding CVA function are discussed in terms of possible relations with ALs.