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Histol Histopathol. 2007 Mar;22(3):337-47. doi: 10.14670/HH-22.337.

Egg extracellular coat proteins: from fish to mammals.

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Brookdale Dept. Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029-6574, USA.


The extracellular coat surrounding fish (vitelline envelope; VE) and mammalian (zona pellucida; ZP) eggs is composed of long, interconnected filaments. Fish VE and mammalian ZP proteins that make up the filaments are highly conserved groups of proteins that are related to each other, as well as to their amphibian and avian egg counterparts. The rainbow trout (O. mykiss) egg VE is composed of 3 proteins, called VEalpha (approximately 58 kDa), VEbeta (approximately 54 kDa), and VEgamma (approximately 47 kDa). The mouse (M. musculus) egg ZP also is composed of 3 proteins, called ZP1 (approximately 200 kDa), ZP2 (approximately 120 kDa), and ZP3 (approximately 83 kDa). Overall, trout VE and mouse ZP proteins share approximately 25% sequence identity and have features in common; these include an N-terminal signal sequence, a ZP domain, a consensus furin cleavage-site, and a C-terminal tail. VEalpha, VEbeta, and ZP1 also have a trefoil or P-type domain upstream of the ZP domain. VEalpha and VEbeta are very similar in sequence (approximately 65% sequence identity) and are related to ZP1 and ZP2, whereas VEgamma is related to ZP3 (approximately 25% sequence identity). Mouse ZP proteins are synthesized and secreted exclusively by growing oocytes in the ovary. Trout VE proteins are synthesized by the liver under hormonal control and transported in the bloodstream to growing oocytes in the ovary. The trout VE is assembled from VEalpha/gamma and VEbeta/gamma heterodimers. The mouse ZP is assembled from ZP2/3 heterodimers and crosslinked by ZP1. Despite approximately 400 million years separating the appearance of trout and mice, and the change from external to internal fertilization and development, trout VE and mouse ZP proteins have many common structural features; as do avian and amphibian egg VE proteins. However, the site of synthesis of trout and mouse egg extracellular coat proteins has changed over time from the liver to the ovary, necessitating some changes in the C-terminal region of the polypeptides that regulates processing, secretion, and assembly of the proteins.

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