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Reproduction. 2005 Dec;130(6):813-23.

Mammalian egg activation: from Ca2+ spiking to cell cycle progression.

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  • 1Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences, The Medical School, Framlington Place, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NE2 4HH, UK.


Mammalian eggs arrest at metaphase of the second meiotic division (MetII). Sperm break this arrest by inducing a series of Ca(2+) spikes that last for several hours. During this time cell cycle resumption is induced, sister chromatids undergo anaphase and the second polar body is extruded. This is followed by decondensation of the chromatin and the formation of pronuclei. Ca(2+) spiking is both the necessary and solely sufficient sperm signal to induce full egg activation. How MetII arrest is established, how the Ca(2+) spiking is induced and how the signal is transduced into cell cycle resumption are the topics of this review. Although the roles of most components of the signal transduction pathway remain to be fully investigated, here I present a model in which a sperm-specific phospholipase C (PLCzeta) generates Ca(2+) spikes to activate calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II and so switch on the Anaphase-Promoting Complex/Cyclosome (APC/C). APC/C activation leads to securin and cyclin B1 degradation and in so doing allows sister chromatids to be segregated and to decondense.

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