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Biol Cell. 2004 Feb;96(1):37-45.

Mammalian fertilization: from sperm factor to phospholipase Czeta.

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  • 1Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01373, USA.


In mammalian eggs, the fertilizing sperm evokes intracellular Ca2+ ([Ca2+]i) oscillations that are essential for initiation of egg activation and embryonic development. Although the exact mechanism leading to initiation of [Ca2+]i oscillations still remains unclear, accumulating studies suggest that a presently unknown substance, termed sperm factor (SF), is delivered from the fertilizing sperm into the ooplasm and triggers [Ca2+]i oscillations. Based on findings showing that production of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3) underlies the generation of [Ca2+]i oscillations, it has been suggested that SF functions either as a phospholipase C (PLC), an enzyme that catalyzes the generation of IP3, or as an activator of a PLC(s) pre-existing in the egg. This review discusses the role of SF as the molecule responsible for the production of IP3 and the initiator of [Ca2+]i oscillations in mammalian fertilization, with particular emphasis on the possible involvement of egg- and sperm-derived PLCs, including PLCzeta, a novel sperm specific PLC.

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