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Hum Reprod. 2000 Mar;15(3):702-8.

Defective sperm-zona pellucida interaction: a major cause of failure of fertilization in clinical in-vitro fertilization.

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University of Melbourne Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Reproductive Biology Unit, Royal Women's Hospital and Melbourne IVF, Victoria, Australia.


Sperm-zona pellucida binding and penetration were assessed on the oocytes that failed to fertilize from couples with >/=3 oocytes treated by standard in-vitro fertilization (IVF). There were four groups: fertilization rate 0% (n = 369), 1-25% (n = 194), 26-50% (n = 81) and 51-95% (n = 100). Of the couples with zero fertilization rate 70% had </=5 spermatozoa bound per zona pellucida and 42% had no spermatozoa penetrating the zona pellucida of any oocyte. In contrast, in the 51-95% fertilization rate group, only 17% had </= 5 spermatozoa bound per zona pellucida and 6% had no spermatozoa penetrating the zona pellucida. There was a significantly higher frequency of poor sperm morphology (</= 5% normal) in couples with zero fertilization rate (36%) than in the fertilization rate group 51-95% (7%). Incubation of oocytes from 68 couples with zero fertilization rate and low sperm-zonae pellucidae binding with fertile donor spermatozoa resulted in normal sperm-zona pellucida binding and most zonae pellucidae being penetrated. In conclusion, defective sperm-zona pellucida interaction was the major cause for low fertilization rates in standard IVF. This was usually because of defects of the spermatozoa rather than defects of the oocytes. Sperm defects likely to cause failure of fertilization should be diagnosed before commencing IVF and the patients directed to intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

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