Fertility: Immunological Control


Fertilization and embryo implantation are considered as potential targets for immunocontraception in terms of their feasibility, desirability and current status.

Keywords: contraception; sperm; egg; embryo; human chorionic gonadotrophin

Figure 1.

Fertilization involves a coordinated cascade of biological steps, including two recognition events that could be the target of a contraceptive vaccine: (1) the binding of spermatozoa to the surface of the zona pellucida; and (2) the binding of acrosome‐reacted spermatozoa to the vitelline membrane of the oocyte.

Figure 2.

Active immunization of the marmoset monkey with purified recombinant human ZP3. (a) Anti‐ZP3 antibody titre; (b) plasma progesterone levels. Note the sudden failure of ovarian function after 12 months immunity against ZP3.

Figure 3.

Implantation as a target for contraceptive vaccine development. The induction of immunity against human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) should prevent the maternal recognition of pregnancy by interfering with the embryo's ability to rescue the corpus luteum (CL) and prevent menstruation.



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Further Reading

Aitken RJ (1997) Molecular mechanisms regulating human sperm function. Molecular Human Reproduction 3: 169–173.

Barber MR, Fayrer‐Hosken RA (2000) Possible mechanisms of mammalian immunocontraception. Journal of Reproductive Immunology 46(2): 103–124.

Feng H, Sandlow JI, Sparks AE and Sandra A (1999) Development of an immunocontraceptive vaccine. Current status. Journal of Reproductive Medicine 44(9): 759–765.

Gupta SK, Jethanandani P, Afzalpurkar A, Kaul R, Santhanam R (1997) Prospects of zona pellucida glycoproteins as immunogens for contraceptive vaccine. Human Reproduction Update 3(4): 311–324.

Kerr L, Paterson M and Aitken RJ (1999) Molecular basis of sperm–egg interaction and the prospects for immunocontraception. Journal of Reproductive Immunology 40: 103–118.

Saxty B and Aitken RJ (1997) Sperm surface antigens and the prospects for contraceptive vaccine development. Reproductive Medicine Review 6: 81–95.

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Aitken, R John(Apr 2001) Fertility: Immunological Control. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0000515]