Sperm–Egg Interactions: Sperm–Egg Binding in Mammals

Abstract

Fertilization of the mammalian egg occurs through an ordered sequence of reactions in which the sperm adheres to, then penetrates, the zona pellucida. It then binds to and then fuses with the egg's plasma membrane, so that the gametes fuse to form the zygote. The zona pellucida and egg plasma membrane are then modified after fertilization to block polyspermic fertilization. The interactions between the sperm and egg involve specific molecules on both gametes that mediate the interactions; malfunction may cause infertility.

Keywords: fertilization in mammals; zona pellucida; acrosomal reaction; acrosomal exocytosis; zonadhesins in sperm membrane; molecular basis of sperm–egg binding and fusion; blocks to polyspermy

Figure 1.

Schematic diagram of the structure of mammalian sperm. (Left) Structure showing the head, midpiece, principal piece and end piece of the sperm. The different compartments of the sperm head are shown in cutaway. The helical arrangement of the mitochondria in the midpiece is indicated. Adapted from Figure of Wassarman PM Zona glycoprotein mZP3: a versatile player during mammalian fertilization. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility116: 211–216, with permission. (Right) Structural elements of the principal piece. Adapted from Figure of Curry MR and Watson PF (1995) Sperm structure and function. In: Grudzinskas JG and Yovich JL (eds) Gametes. The Spermatozoon, pp. 45–69. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, with permission.

Figure 2.

Schematic diagram of the cross‐section of a mature mammalian egg, arrested at metaphase II, showing the different structures. Note that the meiotic spindle is close to the region from which the first polar body has been extruded. Adapted from Figure of Wassarman PM Zona glycoprotein mZP3: a versatile player during mammalian fertilization. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility116: 211–216, with permission.

Figure 3.

Order of events in mammalian fertilization, starting with sperm binding to the outside of the zona pellucida and ending with gamete fusion. Reactions are in sequence (i) to (v), with stages of the reactions labelled. Reproduced from Figure of Wassarman PM Zona glycoprotein mZP3: a versatile player during mammalian fertilization. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility116: 211–216, with permission.

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Evans, Janice P, Hardy, Daniel M, and Storey, Bayard T(Jan 2006) Sperm–Egg Interactions: Sperm–Egg Binding in Mammals. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0004206]