Special Reviews

Penetration, Adhesion, and Fusion in Mammalian Sperm-Egg Interaction

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Science  21 Jun 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5576, pp. 2183-2185
DOI: 10.1126/science.1072029

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Abstract

Fertilization is the sum of the cellular mechanisms that pass the genome from one generation to the next and initiate development of a new organism. A typical, ovulated mammalian egg is enclosed by two layers: an outer layer of ∼5000 cumulus cells and an inner, thick extracellular matrix, the zona pellucida. To reach the egg plasma membrane, sperm must penetrate both layers in steps requiring sperm motility, sperm surface enzymes, and probably sperm-secreted enzymes. Sperm also bind transiently to the egg zona pellucida and the egg plasma membrane and then fuse. Signaling in the sperm is induced by sperm adhesion to the zona pellucida, and signaling in the egg by gamete fusion. The gamete molecules and molecular interactions with essential roles in these events are gradually being discovered.

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