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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2000 Jul 15;379(2):173-82.

Mammalian sperm acrosome: formation, contents, and function.

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UFR Biomedicale, Université René Descartes, 45, Rue des Saints-Pères, Paris, 75270, France.


Sperm-egg interaction is a carbohydrate-mediated species-specific event which initiates a signal transduction cascade resulting in the exocytosis of sperm acrosomal contents (i.e., the acrosome reaction). This step is believed to be a prerequisite which enables the acrosome-reacted spermatozoa to penetrate the zona pellucida (ZP) and fertilize the egg. Successful fertilization in the mouse and several other species, including man, involves several sequential steps. These are (1) sperm capacitation in the female genital tract; (2) binding of capacitated spermatozoa to the egg's extracellular coat, the ZP; (3) induction of acrosome reaction (i.e., sperm activation); (4) penetration of the ZP; and (5) fusion of spermatozoon with the egg vitelline membrane. This minireview focuses on the most important aspects of the sperm acrosome, from its formation during sperm development in the testis (spermatogenesis) to its modification in the epididymis and function following sperm-egg interaction. Special emphasis has been given to spermatogenesis, a complex process involving multiple molecular events during mitotic cell division, meiosis, and the process of spermiogenesis. The last event is the final phase when a nondividing round spermatid is transformed into the complex structure of the spermatozoon containing a well-developed acrosome. Our intention is also to briefly discuss the functional significance of the contents of the sperm acrosome during fertilization. It is important to mention that only the carbohydrate-recognizing receptor molecules (glycohydrolases, glycosyltransferases, and/or lectin-like molecules) present on the surface of capacitated spermatozoa are capable of binding to their complementary glycan chains on the ZP. The species-specific binding event starts a calcium-dependent signal transduction pathway resulting in sperm activation. The hydrolytic and proteolytic enzymes released at the site of sperm-zona interaction along with the enhanced thrust of the hyperactivated beat pattern of the bound spermatozoon, are important factors in regulating the penetration of the zona-intact egg.

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